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on May 11, 2000
This movie is probably not for everyone. It is slow in places, and it does not involve cars being blown up and people getting shot. It is a very personal portrait of one immigrant family. It is peculiar that it makes me feel nostalgic even though I was born in the 70s and in another country at that. In any case, as someone who grew up around immigrants I enjoyed the accurate depiction of relationships within immigrant families. The turkey scene, for example, is an absolute classic. It is funny on the one hand, but, believe it or not, it is also tragic for it very accurately shows how little arguments can ruin relationships between close relatives. We have all seen it happen. The film also accurately depicts the tension between the haves and the have-nots within a family. I have seen this movie many times and I never get tired of it. It is very poignant and beautifly acted. I especially love the scene of the grandfather coming to America. I want to cry every time I see it. It is sort of surreal and you know when watching it that it is just his memory we are seeing,not reality.... I loved this movie. By the way, the score is wonderful also.
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Looking back at some recent comedies by Barry Levinson ("Envy" and "Man of the Year"), it's hard to remember the not-so-distant past when he was a major Hollywood director. A primary creative force behind TV's lauded "Homicide," he also won accolades for film projects as diverse as "Diner" in 1982 to "Wag the Dog" in 1997. And for a few years, he was on a real roll of serious minded and critically acclaimed movies--"Good Morning, Vietnam" followed by an Oscar for "Rain Man" and then another nomination for "Bugsy." Well, in between "Rain Man" and "Bugsy" (both films that I would rate at 5 stars for different reasons), he made his most personal film yet. While "Avalon" doesn't have the high profile of some of these other films (it did secure some writing awards for Levinson, however)--it is my favorite. It's a little film, a quiet character study, a wistfully nostalgic look at a more innocent time--but it's done on an epic scale.

"Avalon" is a fictionalized (and idealized) account of Levinson's own history, a Jewish family from Russia emigrates to the United States to seek prosperity and happiness. Set largely in the Baltimore of the 1940s and 1950s, "Avalon" gently examines family and the discovery of new opportunity. Plot-wise, there isn't a lot to account for--this film doesn't just seek to tell a story, but to strike a mood and create a feeling. There are just great scenes of familial interaction, funny scenes about growing up, scenes of wonder at the progress of a new country. The film might be one of the strongest family films ever. In a day where every film represents dysfunction and quirkiness, "Avalon" is a sweet throwback. This film is based on love, communication, and how people can naturally drift apart. It can come across as innocent and sanitized, perhaps, but the writing is so crisp and observant and the performances are beautiful. To further set a mood, the film is shot beautifully with gorgeous colors and expanses and the score is spot on.

The film stars a young Elijah Wood (as Levinson's surrogate, we presume). Much of the film's wonder comes from seeing things from a child's perspective. It's easy to forget how long Wood has been around what with the "Lord of the Rings" phenomenon--but this is one of his earliest starring roles. His parents are played by Aidan Quinn and Elizabeth Perkins--both giving perfectly nuanced performances. But if the film belongs to anyone--it's Armin Mueller-Stahl as the grandfather. I've always felt that if this film had a slightly larger profile on its release, that this could have been his Oscar.

"Avalon" may not be for everyone--there isn't a lot of action. But for me, it's a near perfect film. I'm not warm and cuddly, by any means, and like entertainment with an edge. But "Avalon" captures me every time. It's so charming, so thoughtful, so engaging, so literate, so beautiful to look at. I recommend this film wholeheartedly, and hope to see a DVD reissue someday that mirrors the quality of the production. It's time more people discover this lost treasure! KGHarris, 01/07.
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VINE VOICEon November 15, 2005
Barry Levinson's sprawling "Avalon" tells the story of Polish Jewish immigrant Sam Krichinsky as he joins his four brothers in Baltimore, 1914. The movie opens with a beautifully shot montage of fireworks, American symbols of liberty such as the eagle, and an immigrant's wonder at the lights and joy surrounding him on the Fourth of July. We cut to the present, where Sam's large family is introduced at Thanksgiving dinner, where the various brothers and their wives bicker in the way that large families do. Sam's son, Jules (Aidan Quinn), and his grandson Michael (Elijah Wood, in his first major role) become the focus of much of the story. Sam and his cousin Izzy (Kevin Pollack) engage in a series of risky business deals to expand their small department store into televisions, then a discount store, then a discount warehouse, all the while swept along by the tide of modern technology (television).

Levinson based the character of Sam on his own immigrant grandfather, and Avalon paints a poignant portrait of family dynamics and the intrusion of commercialism and technology on their lives. Avalon feels like it could have benefited from a little extra trimming (the subplot of Eva's long-lost brother coming to America fades in and out in the blink of an eye), but overall was a beautiful look at a family's changing traditions across the generations. Armin Mueller-Stahl is amazing as Sam, and Joan Plowright as his long-suffering wife brings a fire and charm to the character that reminded me of my own Polish grandmother.

The one element that seemed too transparent was the family's Jewishness, or lack of it. We never see the Krichinsky family at seders, Shabbat, Hanukkah, or other holidays, which seems in a way to strip them of the freedom sought in America (there is some Yiddish spoken, we do hear that Eva's brother was in a concentration camp, and see a Jewish cemetery, but that's about it). The next generations become more and more Americanized, changing their names. Kudos for the excellent period music (1940s Big Band and swing, jazz) and vintage television serials, costumes, and cinematography. This is a beautiful film that embraces family and tradition in turbulent times.
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on March 8, 2001
This film is one of the best I've ever seen in the history of movie-making. While others might scoff at the "boring reality" of it, I found Avalon insightful and involving. The movie revolves around the deterioration of the extended family and primarily the life of one man, Sam Kirkchinski, the patriarch of his family. There is everything good to say about this film: the script, the acting, the directing, the music...everything was absolutely wonderful! While watching this film you fall in love with some characters and grow to dislike others. The directing is probably the most beautiful thing about Avalon, interpreting beautifully Sam's memories of coming to the country, which grow more and more beautiful in his mind with time. The soundtrack comes in a close second, however: Randy Newman composed one of his most beautiful and most overlooked scores for this movie. Overlooked, I don't know why. This movie slipped right by many people when it came out and I hope that they are able to see it sometime. Be warned: if you see Avalon once, it won't be the last time!
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on August 2, 2004
Every time I see this movie, the last 20 minutes or so depress the hell out of me and it makes me nostalgic for an earlier time in which I didn't even live. The closeness of the family, the way kids, parents and grandparents all shared the household, the family talks in the living room...it's just such a departure from the way families exist today, everyone in another city, if not another state. Everyone zoning out in front of the tv. It's a downer, but it's so true! The mood and look of the film are beautiful to watch. It's a thoughtful film worth catching.
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on September 16, 2012
A pretty authentic story of a Jewish immigrant family named Kirchinsky. It mostly revolves around Sam Kirchinsky who came to America in 1914. -- As members of his family had come to America and made a living, they would save and pool together and bring another family member over and help them get on their feet and then bring over another (which is how Sam's brothers brought him over).

When Sam arrived in America, it was the evening of July 4th and fireworks were going off and people were celebrating everywhere, everyone seemed happy and in good situations, and he thought it was the most beautiful place he'd ever seen. This movie pretty much revolves around Sam and later his son for a few decades.

The Kirchinsky's shared houses with other family members and the cousins were close by so the family grew up together knowing each other well and having a good support system and strong family ties. Children were raised by the family community, not just their parents.

But as time goes by things change - his son and his nephew legally changed their last names to more American (easier) sounding ones (Kaye and Kirk respectively) - and eventually as better livings are made they begin to separate somewhat (moving from row houses to the suburbs) and bit by bit the strong family community falls apart. (Which is really a shame, but it is how things happened.)

It's not a success story, not a fast-paced or witty story, the story of 1 person's life, or a love story etc. -- it's just a window back in time. It's interesting, realistic, nostalgic and perhaps a bit sad. It's no "must see" and probably not even one I'd watch again - but I liked it when I watched it, and it stuck with me for the rest of the day (sometimes replaying parts of the movie, sometimes remembering my childhood and how different it was for families even then (in 1960's and presently) and feeling a bit sad at how we lost the family community support system and bond. People back then had so much less than we do today - but they also had so much more.

If you can handle some nostalgia - or want a glimpse into history - check this movie out.
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on July 8, 2000
I saw this movie recently on cable for the first time. As a man approaching 40, I hate to admit that I was in tears by the end of the move. "Avalon" brought back memories of people, places and events from my youth that I had not thought of in years. At times, it almost seemed that some of the characters were based on my family members. This film made me think about how much my family has changed in the last 2 decades--something that I've been too wrapped in my day-to-day affairs to notice. If nothing else, I'm grateful to Barry Levinson for paying tribute to a way of life that, sadly, no longer exists.
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on July 28, 2014
I chanced upon a copy of this at a thrift store, and decided to see what it was about.

Little did I know that it would end up being such a special viewing experience, and that it would become one of my favorite films.

There are many reviews for this film, and many which comment on various specifics associated with what it's about, etc.

I thought I'd go ahead and put forth a review that delves into a few different aspects of the film, including some interesting facts associated with its production.

For starters, in case someone is reading this and hasn't read any of the other reviews, the briefest of synopses I'd convey is that this film is a semi-autobiographical film written and directed by Barry Levinson, and involves a chronicling of multi-generational aspects from his childhood in Baltimore, and the nature of gradual changes that occur in the lives of the different generations, and as contrasted with the traditions and beliefs of his grandparents, who were immigrants.

Ultimately, it is a mesmerizing look at the dissolution of not only tradition, but of family, and with exceptional writing (some of the dialogue expressed by the grandfather still echoes in my mind), wonderful acting (and Armin Mueller-Stahl and Joan Plowright are incredible), and fantastically faithful-to-the-period(s) sets and production design.

In the words of Joan Plowright --
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"Very simply, 'Avalon' is about a family," Plowright says, "about their reaction to change, about their progress in the Promised Land. It addresses how young people adapt more quickly to a changing world which can lead to conflict with their elders who cling to a respect for the traditions and rituals that they don't want to see lost. It's a journey through succeeding generations, but it's also about a crumbling way of life. It is everybody's family experience."
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The following are some comments from Production Notes associated with the film, and which were ultimately made available publicly, via Barry Levinson's web site (I love these bits of 'behind the scenes' whatnot and miscellaneous facts about and inspiration for the film -- personally, I find that they add interesting perspective, as well as otherwise-unknown-to-the-viewer 'dimensions' associated with a given project's overall 'intent', concept, and/or 'care' (especially those involving period-faithful 're-creations')) --

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"The Eastern European immigrant experience is usually seen as a New York story. The Sweatshops, the five-story tenement walkups, crowded Lower East Side -- that is how the nation has come to view this saga. However, the stories that I heard and the pictures that I saw when I was growing up in Baltimore spoke of a different experience, perhaps because Baltimore is a North/South city, the pace was slower, it was not as congested, the work was easier to find and living conditions were better. So out of remembrances of stories told by my grandfather, Avalon began."
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{ The following answers a question I had, after viewing the film -- i.e. "What was it like (for Barry Levinson) to be among period-allegiant sets which harkened to childhood realities in the director's/screenwriter's life, while embarking on a re-creation, based on real people/relatives, in a multi-million-dollar production of this semi-autobiographical 'gem'..." }

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"Anytime you do something that is semiautobiographical [...] you step in and out of your past," the director explains. "I had private moments when I'd walk onto one of the sets and I could almost hear dialogue from my childhood. But the most important thing for me is not to be nostalgic. I'm not interested in nostalgia. What excites me is investigating periods in our lives in terms of their emotional impact, what they represented and how they were affected by the events of the times."
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{ ...and in reading that, the first time, within an hour of having seen the film, I was struck by how wonderfully his film 'captured' and portrayed this element -- the emotional impact of such periods in our lives, what it represented/represents, and how people -- including children (and perhaps, especially children) -- are affected by events of the times (heck, the fact that this project was conceived of, let alone attempted at all, speaks to the reverberatory impact (emotional and otherwise) on Barry Levinson's life... and what makes it so powerful for us, as viewers, is the fact that what is portrayed in the film is so recognizable, and practically 'universal', when it comes to so many, and especially Americans (after all, we're a country whose population is largely comprised of descendants of immigrants, and it continually being expanded by the ever-present addition of more, who come to the shores of this country looking for a better life)... }

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"'Avalon' is about the joy of family, the people you fight with, grow up with, stand beside and love," Levinson says. "It's the richest vein of comedy and drama that any filmmaker could ever tap."
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{ ...in reading those words of Levinson, it brought a smile to my face -- how can we not 'recognize' that fascinating, and oh, so succinctly expressed, reality... of family being "the richest vein of comedy and drama that any filmmaker could ever tap"... and in terms of the comedy aspect, I'm reminded of how various stand-up comedians are never more funny (to me, at least) than when they are relating 'truth', and specifically, near-universal truths that so many would recognize, and involve family (and for me, part of the tickles-me-so-much aspect of such comes down to the fact that a given "something" (from among the so many "something"(s) that are omnipresent in 'life', and family 'circumstances') which a comedian has chosen to 'highlight', has been 'put into words' -- and so many of these otherwise-recognizable realities tend not to be 'wrapped in' or otherwise 'funnelled through' language, and words -- we simply experience them, and don't always 'see' them, unless and until someone else 'paints it for us', in words, and then we instantly 'know' what they're referring to, based on our own experience or observations (active, passive, or otherwise)))... }

{ ...and speaking of comedy... when it comes to this film, there are some moments of dialogue paired with exquisite acting, which resulted in my laughing out loud (a specific scene involving Joan Plowright immediately comes to mind)... }

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"We altered something that had been strong, and we haven't been able to replace it. The family structure acted as a support system. It instilled a sense of morality and acted as an educational force. There's no question in my mind that the family as we've known it has come apart. It was a bit of mourning for this that prompted me to begin writing 'The Family' -- which was the working title for 'Avalon."'
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{ ...in reading Barry Levinson's reflections on this aspect, and specifically, in reading his comment about its being a "bit of mourning for this that prompted me to begin writing" the screenplay for this film, I cannot help thinking that what he created and 'helmed', in the production of this magnificent film, was not only a powerful testament to viewers regarding what is lost, but turned out to be a priceless tribute to his family, and especially his grandparents, and their generation, and fellow immigrants (who, from among many in our society, are still -- to this day -- living reminders to 'the rest of us' of how principled, moral, and powerful their commitment to family is -- and how we would undoubtedly be a better society were we to emulate aspects of such, within our own respective families (there will seemingly always be 'lessons' that we can (and should) learn from immigrants (though regardless of however much of 'that' ever takes place, in this society, let alone within any of our families, there is at least one reality associated with the act of immigration that I will always be in awe of -- I cannot fathom the level of courage, bravery, and astonishing resilience associated with the act of going to another country, and beginning a new life (let alone, and as was the case for so many, never going back to one's homeland), and -- incredibly (or so I think) -- often, without (yet) knowing, understanding, and/or speaking the native language of their new country... in various ways, immigrants (and especially those who arrived on these shores generations ago, and often in conjunction with fleeing a war, poverty, and/or disease and/or famine/decimated crops/food sources) are a kind of 'superhero' in my eyes... }

{ ...and as much as various younger generations often don't 'get' or otherwise seem to 'appreciate' their elders, and especially those elders who started their lives in another country and culture, I cannot help but consider said elders to represent some of the bravest, most remarkable people said younger generation could ever hope to meet, let alone be allowed a chance/opportunity/privilege to 'get to know', and learn from... }

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"I visited and talked with family members and relatives whom I hadn't seen for a long time or really ever known. It forced me to look at my parents and grandparents as people with a greater range of behavior than my childhood image of them ever contained."
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{ ...in reading that, I found it fascinating to 'hear' Levinson's thoughts about such, and suspect that what he commented on was something that is perhaps also an aspect of what is often 'universal' about the child-parent-grandparent 'experience' (and whether or not some of us ever come to realize it... Levinson's 'research' having involved additional conversation with relatives from 'back then', etc., after all, is what 'allowed' him to 'learn' this -- but I suspect that it would also be true for (many, many) others, were they to engage in a similiar endeavor of speaking with relatives from 'long ago', and getting their 'take' on events and whatnot associated with one's childhood, parents, and grandparents (that is, for those who are fortunate enough to have had the luxury of such people even being in their life, let alone their having been 'honorable' human beings to the children in their midst)... }

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Levinson's parents were present during most of the filming and served as uniquely qualified technical advisers. Irv Levinson, Barry's father, says: "We walked onto the warehouse set, opened the door and felt like we were stepping back in time -- all those televisions and appliances from the 1950s. It was my old store. It was uncanny."
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{ ...what an unusual gift it was for Levinson's career to allow for such a moment for his father... :) }

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Levinson and producer Mark Johnson have enlisted outstanding technical support for this complex production. Director of photography Allen Daviau has earned Academy Award nominations for his work on "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," "The Color Purple" and "Empire of the Sun." Production designer Norman Reynolds has won Oscars for his art direction on "Star Wars" and production design on "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The music is by Randy Newman, the Grammy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated singer, songwriter and composer [...]. Editor Stu Linder won an Oscar for co-editing "Grand Prix" and has worked with Levinson on six previous films. Costumes were designed by Gloria Gresham [...]. "Avalon" has been her most challenging project to date [...].
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{ ...this film really was/is an incredible production altogether, including the technical, 'visual', and (especially) period-wise aspects... }

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The production frequently used as many as three sets a day, which presented an endurance challenge to Reynolds and set decorator Linda DeScenna. [...]

For the 1914 Fourth of July celebration, hundreds of flags had to be specially sewn. Automobiles had to reflect the stylistic changes of several decades, and, of course, there were all those late 1940s through 1950s television sets.

"Most of the televisions came from a collector in New Jersey," notes DeScenna. "Almost everything else in the movie comes from the Baltimore area. There were many collectors and just ordinary people here who had hung on to personal treasures and were willing to let us use them. The people of this city have a wonderful sense of pride in their history, and they all know who Barry is. Many of them just wanted something of theirs to be in this movie."
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{ ...I love learning that there was such attention to detail in the period-faithfulness of this film, and I find it to be such a wonderful 'community'-like reality that there were so many people who contributed items to the production... }

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When casting the film, Levinson was primarily concerned with being true to his conception of the characters, rather than with securing box-office names. Once cast, the actors had to remain undaunted by the idea of playing characters who not only existed but, in many cases, might be standing only a few feet away.
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{ ...I cannot begin to imagine how fascinatingly unusual it would be for there to be so many actors portraying actual people from the director's life, and to have some of those individuals(/relatives) present during the filming... :) }

From IMDB --

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Some of Barry Levinson's relatives appear in the scene of Eva's funeral, which is based on the funeral of his own grandmother. When he started directing them, one of his cousins said, "Barry, we know what to do - we did this once before already."
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{ ...in reading that, I cannot fathom how uniquely unusual it would feel to re-enact a funeral one attended in real life (let alone, its being that of a beloved relative)... }

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The home in the suburbs where the Kaye family moves from Avalon is director Barry Levinson's actual childhood home in Forest Park, west of Baltimore's city center.
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This picture featured a number of scenes with Baltimore Transit Co. 7407, the only original Baltimore PCC streetcar that is still complete and in running condition. It was built by Pullman-Standard in 1944, and was the last PCC to run on the streets of Baltimore, on November 3, 1963. It was purchased by a Mr. John Engelman and presented to the Museum. It has since undergone two restorations; the second was performed in the old Carroll Park shops by the Maryland MTA and had been completed when Barry Levinson filmed "Avalon", which used 7407 for some night scenes and interior shots, but he had a wooden rubber-tired PCC replica built for the scenes on Baltimore streets, including the derailment scene. The replica was thereafter donated to the museum.
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And... I was curious to know what Roger Ebert's impression was, of this film, and so I've included aspects of such below.

From Roger Ebert's review, dated October 19, 1990 --
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The strength of Barry Levinson's "Avalon" is that it starts as a movie about a happy family and shows why it became unhappy after its own fashion. During the first half hour of the film, my heart sank because it seemed to be another of those potted biopics about an immigrant family's legends and eccentricities, all three times as colorful as life. Then the colors began to darken and the mood began to change, and the film deepened into the story of many American families which have grown apart over the generations.

[...]

Levinson's "Avalon" is inspired by the experiences of his own family. His grandparents came to American from Russia, part of a large Jewish family that pooled its resources and brought over one relative after another [...] One parent tells his son he will never tell him how to hang wall paper, because "it is not a job you should grow up to do." Notes like this are struck with absolute accuracy; I remember my own father refusing to teach me his trade for the same reason.

The world of Baltimore in the first half of the century is recreated by the film with an unforced but rich detail. The clothes and cars are just right, of course, but so are the values. [...]

[...] Each generation is a little more alienated from the sense of community that the first generation brought over from Russia. Each new family drifts a little further from the center of the family circle. This is a process that may have something to do with the nature of American society. Europeans are vertically conformist; they want to do things as their ancestors did. Americans are horizontally conformist; we want to do things as our neighbors do. This process breaks down the richness of ethnic heritage and creates a bland Middle American who, in a way, is from nowhere--who was invented in TV commercials.

Television gets a lot of the blame from Levinson for the breakdown of the family. At first the whole family gathers around the first set they've seen, staring in fascination at the test patterns. Later the big, loud family meals are replaced by smaller groups eating off of TV trays, looking at prime time.

[...]

In a way, the kids do what they do because of what they've seen on television. [...] Television is a thread all through the movie. It's a socially divisive force, but it's also an entertainment, a hypnotic pastime, an occupation, an influence, a presence. Levinson seems to feel that TV is a disastrous invention that has cut our human society off from its roots. [...]

"Avalon" is often a warm and funny film, but it is also a sad one, and the final sequence is heartbreaking. It shows the way in which our modern families, torn loose of their roots, have left old people alone and lonely--warehoused in retirement homes. The story of the movie is the story of how the warmth and closeness of an extended family is replaced by alienation and isolation. The title of the film comes from the name of the Baltimore neighborhood where the family first settled. In Celtic mythology, Avalon was an island of blessed souls, an earthly paradise somewhere in the Western seas. Who would think, sailing for it, that they would fall off the edge of the earth?
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And lastly... I stumbled upon the following...

From an interview-based article --
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Baltimore Son
The making of "Avalon" -- Barry Levinson discusses his inspiration for the film in Baltimore

By Donald Chase on Oct 19, 1990

[...]

The movie concerns "the breakup of the extended American family, not through failure but through success," he says. [...]

"The film is true in most of the key areas," Levinson says. "We did live for many years with my grandparents." And, he says, the foreign-born members of his extended family "never did understand what the hell Thanksgiving was all about, just like in the movie." The family began to unravel, however, after moving to the suburbs. While that move was made possible by Levinson's father's success at selling TVs, the director thinks that television itself helped destroy the emphasis on conversation that had held the family together.

At a time when the ethnic authenticity of actors is being closely examined [...] Levinson took a typically individual approach to casting Avalon. Joan Plowright, a doyenne of the British theater, at first wondered why Levinson wanted her and not "an authentic Jewish American actress from New York" to play the Polish-Jewish grandmother. He picked the German Mueller-Stahl to play the grandfather, and for the second-generation couple -- his own parents -- the Irish-American Aidan Quinn and Greek-American Elizabeth Perkins.

Taking a break from shooting an edgy confrontation between herself and Perkins in the TV store, Plowright explains the logic in this casting. "He told me that he didn't want a stereotyped New York-Jewish lady because his grandmother wasn't that at all, she was a very individual character." The actress believes Levinson's oddball casting is his way of honoring individuality, "of saying that ordinary people are not ordinary."

"What really distinguishes Barry as a director," says Perkins, "is the incredibly easy atmosphere he establishes on the set. I think you see that reflected in the performances in his films, which are easy and natural, very lifelike." Levinson doesn't like extensive rehearsals -- he thinks they inhibit spontaneity -- but he stays close to his actors. [...]

Where the material success of the family in Avalon strained its ties, Levinson is trying to use his own success to help keep his together. Last year, he and his wife Diana bought a house in Annapolis, Md., so their young sons could have more contact with their extended family. "We try to get the uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents together there whenever we can," he says.

"I can go on about how I think many of the problems we face today are a direct result of the breakdown of the family," Levinson continues. [...]
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In closing, and in case it isn't evident from what I've included here :), Avalon is a great film... and in a rarity among films, it's a truly valuable (and oh, so special) film-watching experience.

And for those of you who have the privilege of having a multi-generational family (and especially if involving a grandparent or parent generation who were immigrants) whose individual families live in relatively close proximity (close enough, at least, at some point in time (e.g. during a visit, perhaps) to allow for a group movie-watching experience), it might prove to be a rather interesting experience to watch this film together (or, minimally, to have the grandparent/adult-child family members view this together), and then to discuss your thoughts about the film (and specifically, what it 'portrays') (either right after viewing, or at another time, after having taken some time to reflect on such).
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on February 9, 2002
I had put off watching Avalon for a long time because I was afraid I would be lukewarm to a film about an immigrant family coming to America and the abandonment of tradition by its next generation. How wrong I was! Avalon is the third element in Barry Levinson's "Baltimore Trilogy". It falls somewhere between Diner (to which I would also give 5 stars) and Tin Men (to which I would give 3 stars) in quality, but it has more sentiment than either.
Armin Mueller-Stahl, who I had not seen before this picture, turns in an excellent performance. I take some degree of issue with Amazon's description of the movie as starring Elizabeth Perkins; she is in fact plays a minor character. Personally, I found her performance one dimensional. Joan Plowright's performance as the family matriarch is much better. Aidan Quinn and Kevin Pollak, the latter of whom I have been a fan of for years, are nothing less than excellent. Yes, this film can get ponderous and a bit long in the tooth, but I would hardly dismiss it as "artsy" or "cutesy". To those who gave this movie negative reviews, I would respectfully suggest that you have forgotten what great filmmaking is all about.
The soundtrack to this film is one of Randy Newman's best ever. Sadly, it is no longer in print. It complements this film beautifully.
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on December 19, 1998
This movie is a journey though the soul and minds of a family of immigrants. Watching them settle, adapt, fail and thrive in a new world is exciting and thought provoking. How brave it is to leave all that is familiar and deal with everything and everyone new and uncharted. The characters are every family, universal, ongoing caricatures we all identify with and recognize from our families and friends. The scenes in this movie are like memories-almost forgottten-tucked away in the backroads of the mind..not gone..not quite forgotten,,like seeing everyone leave the dinner table to watch Uncle Miltie on the brand new TV..you just want to grab them and say 'no, it isn't that important..stay and finish your dinner with your family" For me this film is a documentary of family lost and how we got from there to here.. A chance to look back, to remember the way it was and to dream perhaps it will be that way again. This should be required viewing in the eighth grade.
0Comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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