Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
In Sea of Love, Pacino plays New York City homicide detective Frank Keller who is on the case of a killer finding victims in the singles column of the newspaper (how’s that for old-fashioned?). While on the case, Pacino and his partner (played winningly as always by John Goodman) basically go on speed dates to find their killer through process of fingerprint elimination. Along the way, Keller’s world turns topsy turvy when he meets the most desireable shoe salesman in recorded history, a single mother named Helen Cruger (played by Ellen Barkin) and falls madly in love with her. The usual thriller elements play out, but there’s also a lot of quirk and surprise in Sea of Love and that’s what made it such an entertaining watch for me. Rob, what did you think of Sea of Love and did you know that if Helen married Frank and took his name that her name would then be Helen Keller? That can’t be a coincidence, right? I love this Al Pacino series. There is so much to talk about with this movie. I’m also relieved that I now know which movie the “Pacino smoke and a shot” GIF comes from.
If I have one criticism, it’s the mystery and its resolution. One of my favorite moments of the film is when Pacino decides not to take Barkin’s fingerprints for evidence. That dynamic — the idea that Pacino knows she might be the killer but likes her so much that he doesn’t care — isn’t played hard enough. The middle of the film drags a little, and I thought more focus on Pacino’s inner struggle with his conscience as a cop might have helped. The filmmakers seemed to want it both ways with Barkin’s character and ended up punting on something that could have been interesting. The end reveal is fine in a wish fulfillment kind of way, and it was ultimately the right move, but I was just the slightest bit disappointed.
As for the Helen Keller thing: I guarantee you’re the only person who’s ever caught that. Al would be proud.
Adam: To be fair the Helen Keller thing was something I read online.
Also, yes, the supporting cast in this movie is incredible. It was jarring seeing Richard Jenkins because he looks like he’s aged five years in the 28 years that have passed since this film’s release. My favorite things about Sea of Love are that Pacino is basically like a gimmick cop. He’s all “I want to take down these bad guys. Let’s have a Yankees brunch!” (why is a homicide detective busting low level criminals, btw?) or “I want to take down this killer. Let’s go on some speed dates!” I want Detective Keller to have his own weekly television series. Also, there are so many weird nuggets in this film. I love that Pacino’s apartment pretty much looks unchanged since the 1970s but he has a cartoon alligator (crocodile?) shower curtain for some reason. It’s really strange for a man his age. I was also into the final scene, which is goofy and out of step with the rest of the movie but in the most charming way possible. There’s a moment where Pacino (who is pursuing Barkin down a street in a way that looks like a warm-up to his Frankie & Johnny performance) makes Barkin break and smile and then he gets shoved out of the way by an extra and runs back to her like an eager puppy. It’s really charming. I read Pacino and Barkin got along on set and it bleeds through into their performances. There’s a strong level of play happening there.
Alright, I’m not sure I can wait much longer for the speed dating story.
Adam: I have gone to singles events and speed dates in my time. I recognize almost every woman that Pacino and Goodman go out with (by type, I mean) and the dialogue in these scenes is pretty accurate in the mix of cynicism and hopefulness. Barkin being the aggressor, demanding animal attraction right away, is pretty commonplace. The specific experience I was referring to, though, was a Jdate I went on about five years ago. I met a girl and we went out to dinner. Before the date, she texted me asking how excited I was about the date. I texted back I was a 9. She wrote back “JUST A 9?” We met at the bar of a Japanese restaurant. She joined me and we started drinking together. Then our table was ready and we ate. Something was off, because she was way too good looking to be on speed dates, provocatively dressed for Wrigleyville, and into me to a degree that was uncomfortable because we had just met. I asked her after dinner if she wanted to go to a different bar and continue the night. She kissed me (in the restaurant) but said no and that she had a ride waiting for her outside. I said “When did you call for a ride?” and she said “My friend has been waiting outside this entire time, but don’t worry.” I was very thrown off by this answer and weirded out even more because we were on this date for more than two hours. We agreed to end the night there and see each other again at a later date.
Cut to the next weekend and I’m trying to make plans with her. I asked her if she wanted to meet up at a different place (I can’t remember where we were supposed to go) and she said “Why don’t we spend the night together?” I wanted to so I said “Um, ok, your place?” and she was like “No, I live with my mother. Give me your address. I’ll come over.” I asked her how, because on the first date she said she didn’t have a car. She said “I’ll rent one.” I was like “Ummmm…..let me call you back in a few minutes.” I waited about an hour and said “How about we just meet at a bar somewhere in the city?” She said “I am already on the way to your place, Adam.” I said “How? You don’t know where I live.” She then said “You live in (Adam’s town). You told me the other night.” I replied “I’m confused. Where are you actually going? The village sign or something?” She then said “I’m trying to make this real easy on you.” I was totally weirded out at this point and she goes “GIVE ME YOUR ADDRESS!” I said no and then I overheard her talking to a guy in the car she was in and he was pissed at her because I hadn’t given her the address yet. I hung up. She called me back maybe thirty times that night. It was scary. Years later I read something very similar to this about a guy who used a dating site, his date went back to his place and then the date came back the next night with a bunch of guys to rob the online dater and, oh yeah, he was murdered, too. This is why I don’t date people on the internet anymore. So anyways... I’m going to vote a Mark Ahn for Sea of Love.
P.S. I need to rewatch this movie to see that move Pacino is doing where he looks at a spot on the wall. What is one of the scenes he does that in?
Adam: Before we close I also want to say that I’ve now seen three of the five Pacino movies from the ‘80s and this is my favorite so far. Sorry, Scarface fans. And Cruising fans. My lord is that movie fucked up. Until next time...
Rob: These seats are reserved.