I’d been looking for this film for months, since I started spending so much time with the Sweet One, because it’s one of my all time favorites and she’d never seen it. Fortunately BBC America cablecast it earlier in the week and Tivo stored it until we had some time. I consider it one of a trio of smaller, character-driven movies that came out in the early 1980s along with Chariots of Fire (also produced by Sir David Puttnam) and Barry Levinson’s Diner.
Dealmaker Peter Riegert is sent by corporate head/crazy old man Burt Lancaster to negotiate the purchase of a small coastal village in very northwest Scotland so that their company can build a new terminal and refinery. Picking up a native, though not local, lackey when he arrives in Scotland, he needs to work out the deal with the wily, randy hotelier/accountant/barkeep Denis Lawson. The locals decide to keep Riegert on the hook to get the most money but this is mainly a way for writer/director Bill Forsyth to keep us in the quaint little village (two fisherman argue over whether dollar has one or two l’s in it) and introduce us to people who really aren’t terribly well acquainted with the second half of the 20th century. Plus the amazing natural beauty of the barely touched by human hands territory and, I would guess, they filmed in late Spring or mid-Fall.
Peter Riegert never really lived up to his promise as an actor but he did make three really good movies: Animal House (his film debut), this one, and 1988’s Crossing Delancy, where he was amazing as Amy Irving’s reluctant, old-style matchmaker-arranged suitor. In Local Hero he really delivers as we fall in love with Furness through his eyes and feel his heart melt. At the open he is pissed about having to go on the road (“I’m more of a Telex man, really. I could wrap this up in an afternoon from the office.”) but at he end he is sad and reluctant to leave. Lawson is his key counterpart, a classic city versus country faceoff, befriending Riegert yet keeping him at enough distance to try for every last bit of money. The one mistake, though it does give Forsyth a way to his ending, is bringing Lancaster to Scotland to finish the deal when a last minnute obstacle appears to derail the entire deal.
I would write more about why this is such a favorite of mine but I’m having difficulty putting the reasons into words well: Riegert and Lawson’s performances, the beauty of the locale and Jenny Seagrove, Mark Knopfler’s enchanting music, Forsyth’s script. Just see it.