I caught Punchline (1988) on TV a few days ago around 11–11:30 p.m., while I was waiting for a mango cheesecake to bake and then cool. I have to say I really enjoyed seeing Tom Hanks at about 22, the age when he must have consolidated his position as a heartthrob for many teenagers, given that he started acting in movies in 1980.
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Punchline (affiliate link) is not so much a comedy as a film about comedy with some of the accoutrements of the latter.
BUT I have not seen the ending! I fell asleep sometime around 12:30 while waiting for some commercials to end. What I have seen, though, was a gem. Tom Hanks was incredibly accomplished for his age. I try to think how much of a teenager I still was at 22 compared to the chops Tom Hanks shows in this movie, and I’m amazed how mature his performance is, especially when he breaks down onstage when he’s supposed to perform for an acting agent.
Sally Field is also a pleasure to watch as Lilah Krytsick, a housewife who tries to make a career—or a side gig (I’m not sure)—as a stand-up comedian. She is loved and appreciated by her husband and girls, but unfortunately her husband doesn’t consider her funny—anymore. Nor does he seem to understand why she wants to prove herself outside the home. And that’s something many of us can relate to in some ways.
In Punchline (affiliate link), the character played by Tom Hanks, Steven Gold, falls in love with Lilah, or he deludes himself to that effect. Lilah accepts one kiss but soon thereafter we see her with her family, the girls doting on her new haircut, and we understand that her place is there with them and with her husband (played by John Goodman), who looks upon the scene most lovingly.
Okay, so that’s quite a shift from a guy who follows Lilah out of the house into the rain crying out for all the world to hear that she’s not funny, but apart from this quibble I find nothing amiss with this movie, which seems to hit all the notes it’s after.
Yes, it’s more dramatic than comedic; yes, it’s not quite drama either (Roger Egbert, for one, would have liked something more hard-boiled), but it delivers! I wish I’d seen the ending. It looks like Lilah stays with her husband while also pursuing her passion for comedy.
P.S. And yes, her jokes during one of her impromptu routines weren’t lough-out-loud funny, but they weren’t supposed to be! Both she and Steven are rookies.
P.P.S. My mango cheesecake (with raspberry topping) came out scrumptious. Will post the recipe soon.
To a happier, healthier life,