It’s true that Francis Ford Coppola had a rough time after the first two Godfather films and Apocalypse Now, but that’s not to say that the films that would follow would all be without merit or importance. 1988’s deeply underrated Tucker: The Man and His Dream deserved to do better than it did at the box office ($19 million on a $25 million budget), and despite solid critical response, it’s a late 80’s gem that not enough people seem to have seen, but once you’ve seen it, it’ll be hard not to be a fan. Jeff Bridges gives a warm, winning, and hugely sympathetic lead performance as Preston Tucker, a dreamer, schemer, and all together believer in his own mystique and passionate ideas. He wants to build a car, a special car for the people, but has to fight corrupt business partners, shady journalists, and government meddling all in effort to get his dreams realized for real and on a national stage. In a career filled with underappreciated performances before he finally got his Oscar, this is one of my favorites from Bridges.
Vittorio Storraro’s expansive cinematography is lush and vibrant (this film is screaming for a Blu-ray upgrade) and Joe Jackson’s uplifting score hits all the right notes of “feel good” inspiration without becoming overly cloying or cheaply sentimental. The Oscar nominated production design by the absolutely amazing Dean Tavoularis is stunning, and the film certainly bears the optimistic thematic imprint of long time Coppola buddy George Lucas, who served as producer, and ultimately rescuer, when Coppola was having problems getting the film financed. The excellent supporting cast also includes Joan Allen, Mako, Martin Landau, Elias Koteas, Frederic Forest, and Dean Stockwell, while the strong script by Arnold Schulman (Funny Lady) and David Seidler (The King’s Speech) really keeps this one on firm narrative ground. A passion project since childhood, you can smell the love that Coppola brought to the entire, lavishly appointed production. Tucker: The Man and his Dream is available on DVD.