Sunday, April 29, 2012

Don't Make a Scene: Diner

The Story: No, this habit pre-dates Diner. Passive-aggressive mooching has been going on for millennia. In fact, I'm sure I heard one of the man-apes in 2001 say "You done with that clavicle? I can use it for somethin'."

No, I'd heard it before. "You done?" "You gonna eat that?" "You savin' that potato salad?" "You done with that?"

"If you're not gonna eat that..."

"I mean....really...if....

The past being prologue meant that encountering this little drama in "Diner" just made it that much funnier. And bitter-sweet. You could relate.

And you could relate to the sub-text. Of course, it's a set-up. "C'mon, ev-er-y time!" Yes, it's a set-up. They're all in on it. They're all against you.

And why not? You're Steve Guttenberg!

Okay, at the table is The Goot, Paul Reiser (up-and-coming comedian and future creator of "Mad About You", Daniel Stern (the voice of "The Wonder Years" and a fine character actor—Home AloneCity Slickers) and they're one degree from a very young Kevin Bacon, a couple movies away from Footloose (the original, I suppose I have to say now). In the wings are Tim Daly, future star of "Wings" but current brother of Tyne, and Mickey Rourke, who'd been in bit parts in 1941 and Body Heat, and that's about it. And Ellen Barkin in her first movie.

Great cast. Great movie about the clueless cruelty of adolescents pretending they're men.

The Set-Up:
It's another night at the Diner for four Baltimore hot-shots, Modell (Paul Reiser), Eddie (Steve Guttenberg), Shrevie (Daniel Stern), and the guy who just walked in with the scraped knuckles, Fenwick (Kevin Bacon). They're at a lull in the conversation, and...


Modell: What is that, roast beef?

Eddie: Don't ask me this anymore, Modell. Yes.

Modell: You gonna finish that?

Eddie: Yeah, I'm gonna finish it. I paid for it. I'm not gonna...I'm not gonna give it to you.

Modell: If you're not gonna finish it, I would eat it. But if you're gonna eat it, you're gonna...

Eddie: What do you want? Say the words.
Modell: Naw, you go ahead. You're gonna eat it. You eat it. That's all right.
Eddie: Say the words. "I want the roast beef sandwich." Say the words and I'll give you a piece.

Shrevie: Would you guys cut this out? I mean, every time, and he...
Eddie: Well, he doesn't talk! He just...
Shrevie: Well, you know what he means, right?
Eddie: Yeah, I know what he means, but he beats around the bush! If he'd say the words, I'd give him a piece.

Modell: If I wanted it, wouldn't I...wouldn't I ask you?
Eddie: Then ask! You know you want...
Shrevie: Will you just let it go?
Eddie: You know he wants it.

Shrevie: You're annoying as hell.
Eddie: I'm annoying?! I'm annoying!? I'm trying to eat a meal by myself.

Shrevie: If you want to give him the sandwich, give him the sandwich. If you don't want to give him the sandwich. then don't give...
Eddie: I don't wanna give...
Shrevie: Well, then just eat the sandwich and shut up.
(Fenwick laughs)
Eddie: Well, look at his eyes!

Modell: I ask one simple question, and you get...You know what your problem is? You don't chew your food. (Fenwick snorts) That's why you get so irritable here. You have have roast beef in your heart that just stays there.

Eddie: Oh, Modell, you're really, really getting me mad now! My blood is boiling!

Shrevie: I'll take the sandwich. (Shrevie takes the sandwich from Eddie's plate)
Eddie: No, don't!
Shrevie: Fine! I'll take the sandwich.

Eddie: See?! See what you do? Every goddamn...
Modell: Why're you blaming me? He took the sandwich. I'm just sitting here. I'm having a cup of coffee. That's it.
Shrevie: Want this?

Eddie: Not now! No, no, no!
Shrevie (to Modell): Want this?

Fenwick: I do. (Shrevie takes a tentative bite)

Eddie: I can't believe you're eating the sand...

Eddie: You know, you two play against me. That's what the problem is! You're both on each other's side.


Words by Barry Levinson

Pictures by Peter Sova and Barry Levinson

Diner is available on DVD from MGM Home Entertainment.

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