I'm Not Rappaport (1996) Poster

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A sad comedy about aging
howard.schumann15 December 2003
In I'm Not Rappaport, a film by Herb Gardner based on his Tony award winning play, two octogenarians Nat (Walter Matthau) and Midge (Ossie Davis) meet regularly on a park bench in New York's Central Park. The film centers on their relationship as they reminisce about past loves, talk about unions and bosses, old age, and idealism. Nat is a chameleon who assumes the role of spy, lawyer, or consumer advocate, depending on the situation at hand. `I was one person for 80 something years,' he says. `Why not be a hundred for the next five?' Midge, now nearly blind, has worked as a building superintendent for forty years and has had to make compromises just to keep his job.

The film takes its title from the old vaudeville joke in which a comic walks across the stage and encounters a straight man with surprise: `Rappaport! What happened to you?' he says. `You used to be a short, fat man and now you're a tall, skinny man.' `I'm not Rappaport,' says the straight man. And this goes on for a couple of minutes until the comic says, `Rappaport, you used to be so well dressed and clean and now you're dressed in filthy old clothes.' `I'm not Rappaport,' says the straight man. `So you changed your name too!' says the comic.

Nat's most vivid remembrance is that of a meeting when he was five years old in which a passionate woman, Clara Lemlich (Elina Lowensohn), summoned the Ladies Garment Workers Union to participate in a general strike. He is a follower of radical left-wing causes who focuses his remaining energy and considerable wit on helping others facing injustice. Midge doesn't want any part of social activism but, when the spokesman for the tenant's committee threatens to eliminate his job and apartment dwelling, Nat pretends that he is Midge's lawyer and intervenes, making clear that the issue is a society that underestimates and mistreats its senior citizens. In another sequence, Nat pretends he is a consumer spokesman and brazenly marks down the price of meats and groceries in the local supermarket until he is thrown out on his ear.

Things take on a darker tone, however, when a local hood, J.C. (Guermo Diaz) seeks protection money from the elderly. The pair also becomes involved with drug dealer "Cowboy" (Craig T. Nelson) who threatens street artist Laurie (Martha Plimpton) with physical harm if she doesn't pay him the money she owes for drugs. These two episodes are the least effective in the film and do not add much to our understanding of the characters. The most touching sequence, however, is when Nat's schemes are revealed as a desperate attempt to maintain his independence from his daughter Clara (Amy Irving) who wants greater control over his life. While his activities seem harmless, Clara is fearful of her father's visits to the park and wants him to live with her or in a managed care facility. "I'm not going to live in Siberia in Great Neck" with her, he tells her, then makes up a story about a long-forgotten daughter who has invited him to live with her in Israel.

While ostensibly I'm Not Rappaport is essentially a two-man show, in reality Matthau grabs the spotlight and never lets go, reducing Davis' role to film fighting off Nat's outlandish talks and schemes and playing straight man for his comic routines. While the film is a comedy, there is sadness in the fact that a once powerful set of beliefs is now reduced to pathetic gestures by sentimental old men. Even when Gardner pays tribute to the Jewish tradition of social action, the Bolshoi Chorus belting out the Internationale seems to mock their passion. For these men, old age does not bring security, status, or emotional fulfillment, only longing for the society that might have been and the men they could have become. For them, there is little left to cling to except a wistful kind of grace.
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Mathau's acting masterclass
andersoj-114 March 2005
This is a gentle heart warming film, that to me has a quintessential qualities that make Walter Mathau such a great actor. It is not the comedy in which he excelled at in films like 'The Odd Couple'. It is the way he bullies the script and the camera. This he does well but with not as much aplomb in 'The Sunshine Bys'. To see a film where the script is paramount is wonderful, and to have an actor such as Mathau at the centre of it conducting it with all his mastery skill is a delight to watch. The supporting cast around Mathau equip themselves well. They are not overpowered by his fame or skill. At times it feels as though you are actually there watching events unfold. This is a credit to the director who while keeping it looking like the good film it is, also brings you in as though you are the only person in the world watching the film. Although I have only watched the film on the television, I feel that I would have felt the same effect had I been watching the film in the cinema. This is a rare effect, too many times films can have that distant feel. It is the directors's skill, and the skill and art of the actors that this is never lost. I watched this film, when I had to fill half an hour of time. The result was that I was glued to the seat unable to pull myself away.
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I wish Walter Matthau were immortal.
cehf25 February 2000
What a great movie! With a great script, a pair of huge actors, and a beautiful scenery, this movie can touch anyone's heart. Don't miss it!
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A Comedy that Made This Old Lady Smile
ffk623014 December 2010
Actually, I not only smiled, I laughed out loud. I'm 70 and did not feel that this movie is sad, as some of the other reviewers have suggested. Those two old guys were making the best out of the time they had left,an encouraging message for us old folks. Unlike so many of today's movies, there was an engaging plot and solid character development. So many of the movies I see these days substitute visual effects,sex scenes,violence, and vulgar language for plot and character development. Also, although it was 130 minutes long,those minutes moved quickly.

Three cheers for Walter Matthau! Three cheers for Ossie Davis! Three Cheers for Herb Gardener!
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Sensitive, poetic, funny, amusing. Excellent actuation from Walter Matthau. Ossie Davis is good too.
fanton19 February 1999
A sensitive approach to the "getting old" problem on the big cities. The main character is a modern version of Dom Quixote, who tries to keep his ideas and principles alive assuming to be imaginary people which had more interesting histories than he had on his own life.

The movie is beautiful and amusing. Walter Matthau is splendid.
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heavy_metal_hippy26 April 2007
very slow, very long, very quiet, which is perfect considering the film is about two old men trying to battle their age.the pace and mood of the film fits perfectly into its content. it is a very artistic movie with just enough reality to keep it Sincere yet enough adventure to keep it enjoyable.although a major plot in the movie is that of drugs and drug addiction, it seems to take a rather light hearted approach to it which keeps the issue of age close at all times, the relationship between that of Nat and his daughter is one that i have seen all to often in life and leaves you with a sense of pity.this is a subject that isn't touched on enough when it comes to film. it truly is a must see movie
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comedy about a lovable, aging con man
helpless_dancer2 April 1999
Walter Matthau was great as an aging man who lives to hang out in Central Park and tell outrageous lies. He strikes up a relationship with a man whom he drives nuts with his outlandish yarns. Matthau tries a con on several people trying to help them and himself out, but they all backfire. This film had a story that had me riveted to my chair. The entire production was filmed in Central Park, the scenery was beautiful, with many shots of the surrounding buildings. Wonderful movie - 5 stars.
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The Tragedy of Old Age - and a wink at the once great Willie Howard
theowinthrop30 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
In CITIZEN KANE, Kane's most faithful associate and friend, Mr. Bernstein (now Chairman of the Board of Kane's empire) tells the reporter that aging is the only disease that nobody looks forward to the cure of (i.e. death). I'M NOT RAPPAPORT is a look at just how ultimately dreary and awful old age becomes for most of us. Yet it is a comedy - because in humor we manage to find reason to survive and even flourish a little.

I was lucky to see the play on stage with Judd Hirsch and the late Clevon Little. It was a good production, and had less slow spots than the film (which occasionally slows down to try to find something visual to satisfy the viewing audience - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't). Hirsch and Little had good rapport in the roles of Nat and Midge, the elderly Jewish radical and the elderly African-American super. Both are now considered out-of-date and expendable. In short they are old, and at best are part of the background, and at worst bandied about by careless or vicious younger people.

Midge is suffering from reoccurring cataracts and glaucoma. He is the still smart engineer of his apartment's boiler room (and he demonstrates a remarkable ability to pinpoint a car engine's problems too). But he is 81 or so and the building is turning coop. They don't need an antiquated super for their new image (they are even getting a new boiler so they don't need his expertise!). Nat is in a similar position, but he is imaginative and clings to a fanatical devotion to the socialist-and communist labor viewpoint that permeated the Jewish districts of the lower East Side and Brooklyn from 1900 to 1947. He is able to demonstrate an inventiveness to promote the defense of people's rights. But frequently (too frequently) he does not realize that his actions might injure the people that he thinks he is helping. As he was dying Frederick Douglas yelled to remember to always "agitate!". He was right. But Douglas realized you had to agitate for change that was possible. Nat can't realize this, as he falls under the romance of his various guises and lies.

The play and film covered actually three months, but the first act and second were in the course of a single pair of days. Midge (here Ossie Davis) faces dismissal from the spokesperson of the tenant's group taking over the building (Danford - Boyd Gaines). But Danford is really a softy, and even is willing to try to get a severance package for Midge that is larger than the one he offers. Just as they are about to agree Nat (Walter Matthau) shows up and pretends he is a labor union lawyer nicknamed "the cobra" who will destroy Danford unless he retains Midge in the job. For awhile this works...until a member of the tenant's group eventually finds out Nat lied. Then Midge gets even less than he was supposed to.

Nat (who actually was once a waiter - nothing else) similarly manages to harm Laurie (Martha Plimpton), a recovering addict and artist, who owes $2,000.00 to Cowboy (Craig T. Nelson) for drugs. He pretends to be a "Godfather" with Midge as his bodyguard. Cowboy is not fooled, but is seriously annoyed.

So it goes with all Nat's plans and attempts to spread the zeal of activism. For nobody really cares outside of their immediate self-interest. As his drained but loving daughter (Amy Irving) tells Nat, the old fights are just that...old fights. Nobody cares about them anymore.

And yet the fervor in Nat's voice, recalling an historic rallying point in New York Labor history in 1909, or the sudden care and bravery of Midge when Nat is in danger show these men are worthy of respect. Only one person really comes close to respecting them...Danford. He is younger by decades, but he is aware (in his late 30s) that he lacks the physical strength he only had five years earlier. When Matthau basically says that Davis's only sin is his old age, Matthau reminds Danford that one day he too will be a member of the old age club. Danford is very aware of that.

Matthau brings to Nat his mad vitality (as Hirsch brought a type of intellectual memory to the same role). Davis is not as energetic as Little was on stage, but he does bring a degree of comfort to the role - an African-American of 80 years who knows what is expected by society of his type, but has found ways to circumvent it as much as possible. Irving makes Nat's daughter his tragic, loving victim - caring for him, but finding him rejecting her overtures to care for him. People aware of Nelson as "Coach" will be amazed by his vicious streak - but he is still able to be a good deadpan/straight-man to Matthau at the end. And Gaines certainly makes Danford more thoughtful than one could imagine.

Oh...Willie Howard. "I'm not Rappaport" is an old routine of that Broadway clown, where he drives a stranger crazy insisting he is Rappaport, although he does not resemble the gentleman in any way. Howard never was a Hollywood star, so it is nice that the play resurrected his memory a little here.
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Nat Moyer may be several persons
rachid-210 November 1999
Nat Moyer ( Walter Matthau ) may be several persons for the others: consumer protector, working class counselor, FBI agent, movie industry mogul, ... But Nat was in his entire life, essentially, the man who never forgot Clara Lemlich calling a general strike at the textile workers Union meeting. Matthau'interpretation was worth an Oscar. The movie has the marks of the original play. A gentle satire about the dreams and the death of communism.
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Worth a try but be wary of the length, slow pace and the feeling that it is consistently missing the target
bob the moo25 July 2005
Despite being old and worn, Nat Moyer has not lost any of his energy and is still the rabble rouser that he grew up around. He misses the Union days and the fact that none of his peers seem interesting in fighting "the man" anymore. He spends his days in the park where he finds that the employment of acquaintance Midge Carter provides him plenty to get worked up about. Although Nat himself may be a mess underneath the surface he soon finds the problems of those he meets to be distracting enough even as his own issues remain unresolved.

Starting out with a scene that gives us a certain amount of insight into the character of Nat, the film takes a fairly slow pace and isn't helped by the fact that the drama is rather forced and unconvincing for long sections of it. Although there is an element of character study within the film, the "adventures" of Nat and Midge are slightly stretched and prevented me seeing the characters are people. In an out and out comedy, this wouldn't be a problem but this is not so much a comedy as it is a drama and it does rather take away from the impact it has. It still does enough to be interesting to watch but I could see what it was trying to do and it was a bit of a problem for me that it didn't seem to be able to do it. The slow pace isn't helped by the length of the film and I can understand why many viewers will be frustrated by this when combined with the way that it is hard to be involved with.

The strongest sections of the film are those that ignore the adventures but concentrate on the two men and the dynamics between them – it is here we get to the core of the characters (or at least as close as we get). This is also helped by fine acting from the lead two. Matthau is his usual funny self but also has an air of the tragic – he convinces well as a man who may be delusional, crazy or just plain lonely and in denial. Davis has less of the lime light since he plays more of a straight man to Matthau, but he does it well. These two make the film better than the material suggests and although the support is OK, I didn't really think that the film made good use of Irving, Nelson, Plimpton, Diaz and others – mainly they just set up the adventures and providing a bit more of a way into Nat.

Overall this is an OK film but just don't expect anything special. It isn't particularly funny, nor is it meant to be; more worryingly the character aspect of it doesn't come off that well and, if it weren't for the presence of Mattau and Davis, I doubt it would have worked at all. Worth a try but be wary of the length, slow pace and the feeling that it is consistently missing the target.
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Great Duo
EdgarST7 July 2011
Though I have worked in almost all aspects of the theater business, I do not agree with many of my colleagues when it comes to film tastes. I do not like film adaptations of stage plays because the origins are most of the times in evidence, but that seems to be what my friends enjoy more: to be remembered that they watch filmed theater. But this one (winner of New York's Tony award) I liked quite a lot, although it is also the case: in spite of the efforts to emphasize its outdoors setting, it is based on word interchange, and most of the action is verbal and static, depending mostly on criss-cross editing. This time though you have two exceptional actors, with the additional plus that they are not of the kind that goes around with a sign on his/her face or chest that reads "I'm the Greatest Actor" (and I can think of quite a few). You don't find plays everyday in which the main characters are a Jewish militant of the Left and a black janitor, both very old. These people are not glamorous, their lives were not full of heroics, and old age is not epic, but one spends a good time with these two folks, even if a couple of subplots could have been omitted. Perhaps, due to the fact that Herb Gardner the playwright adapted his work and also directed it, the film is overlong. But one day when you are not in a rush, and have time for Matthau and Davis, enjoy them. It is better than watching aimless young Germans in Portugal for two hours, in something called "Body Rice"...
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Two old codgers in the Park
bkoganbing9 March 2016
A couple of old codgers who were playing slightly beyond their actual ages make I'm Not Rappaport a really delightful film, especially for us senior citizens who can now identify with it. I couldn't much when the movie came out or Herb Gardiner's play ran on Broadway from 1985 to 1988 for 891 performances. Judd Hirsch and Cleavon Little played the roles on Broadway that Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis do in the film.

There's a nice free flowing chemistry between Matthau and Davis. Matthau was literally born to play this role given his Lower East Side upbringing with family of the same general background as his Nat Moyer.

Matthau's discovered that the elderly can get away with just about anything and maybe helped by a bit of dementia he spins the kind of yarns that in old Hollywood westerns might have made him a Yiddishe sidekick. He's an old leftist from back in the 30s when it was most respectable. Bernie Sanders would have gotten this guy.

Davis has lived for 40 years as a building superintendent in a Fifth Avenue and the building is going co-op and he's about to be let go. Davis likes Matthau in his own way, but hasn't quite gotten the hang of laying it on the way Matthau does. See the two of them, especially Matthau take on the co-op president Boyd Gaines.

The play only had the one setting of the park bench in Central Park where these two commiserate. But with Herb Gardner adapting his own play, the beautiful fall vistas of Central Park makes the park itself a character in the film.

But you really have to see how Matthau and Davis play off against each other so well. That's what puts them in the seats and now renting the film on Netflicks.
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Yes You Are
Idocamstuf19 February 2005
This is a predictable little film about two old geezers puttering around Central Park. Worth seeing for Matthau's and Davis' chemistry, but thats about it. The biggest problem with this film is that it runs far too long for its subject matter. The same story could have been told in about 75 minutes, but they had to extend it to a long 135 minutes, which was a mistake. Many people will be bored by this film, but a few may really enjoy it, especially those really interested in politics. **/****. If you really want to see this two old actors together, your best bet would be Grumpy Old Men, which was a truly funny and entertaining movie.
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mack-1322 February 1999
For a picture like this comes up to me the literal translation for a common expression used here in Portuguese as: "something that washes up your soul".
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Days in the park
Petey-107 February 2005
I'm Not Rappaport (1996) tells about two old men, Jewish Nat Moyer (Walter Matthau) and black Midge Carter (Ossie Davis), who spend their days in the park discussing many important issues.The movie is based on the late's Herb Gardner's play and he also directed it.Davis and Matthau shine together in the lead.If it wasn't for them, this may be a worse movie.They really make it work.Then again, when you put a black man and a Jew together in a same movie, you just can't fail. Sadly they're both gone now.Matthau died nearly five years ago, Davis we lost last Friday.This 87 year old master was found dead in a hotel room in Miami, where he was filming a movie (Retirement).He was a good man.He fought for the black people's rights and he knew both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, jr.You will be greatly missed, Ossie Davis. Other great actors include Amy Irving, Craig T. Nelson, Martha Plimpton etc.This is a extremely sympathetic independent comedy with two sympathetic men.I can recommend it for all the sympathetic people.
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I`m Not Recommending It
Theo Robertson4 May 2004
Two old men sitting on a park bench . I don`t really have a problem with this scene - Only problem is that it`s not a scene it`s the entire movie

Yup movies don`t get anymore low concept than this . They also don`t get anymore boring than this either , but there`s worse to come because these two old men are chalk and cheese . One is Nat Moyer who is Yiddish communist while the other is Midge Carter a former golden gloves champion who`s also black . Let me see now , a Jew and a black man sitting on a park bench getting along fine . Well I guess it`s possible though unlikely , but if this film has such an inoffensive scenario why play up to the Jewish stereotype ? Why make them loud tribilistic rabble rousers who take hebrew oaths ? Slightly ironic that the Jews seen at the start of the movie are exactly the type of Jews seen in Nazi propaganda films in the 1930s

Stereotypes aside moi dearz the problem with I`M NOT RAPPAPORT is that it`s written for an entirely different meduim than cinema , it`s based on a stage play and it shows . Walter Matthau sleepwalks through his role as Nat while this commentator almost slept through the whole movie
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Who is, in this workaday world?
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews25 December 2009
I have neither read nor seen the play that this was based upon, so maybe that's part of why I didn't like it. With the author of it writing the screenplay for, *and* directing, this, I can only assume that it is a good representation of his initial vision for the story. Unless of course he doesn't "get" the medium of film, and/or should have(R.I.P.) handed the reins over to someone else, once he had committed the text to paper. I don't know. Perhaps I'm too young and I haven't experienced enough in life to fully appreciate this. All are quite possible, and I am not at all saying that everyone will dislike this. But I can't claim that I particularly cared for it. It's got a pretty slow pace, and it doesn't seem to hit the mark for what it's trying to say. I realize that it is about whether or not one ought to fight those in charge, about acceptance and loss, and about not being considered useless simply because of being a senior citizen. This just does not perfectly express those. Also, for being a comedy, I can't claim to have found more than a single line to be funny. The characters are well-written and fleshed out. I can't speak ill of the acting, Matthau and Davis are excellent. Heck, even Nelson impressed me, for the first time. Production-wise, this is fine. There's brief violence and a little drug use in this. I recommend this mainly to fans of those who made it, and/or of the theater version. 6/10
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The tragedy - and comedy - of old age
cherold24 May 2018
Two old men, one a fiery communist, becomes friends - sort of - by sharing a bench in central park. Nat, the communist, is still fighting for the revolution with crazy schemes like marking down the prices at D'agastino's. Midge is just trying to get through life.

Walter Matthaus' Nat is terrific, funny and brave and foolhardy, reeling off stories that fall far short of reality. Ossie Davis is solid in the less flashy role of Midge, as is Amy Irving in a small but effective role as Nat's daughter.

The film does a solid job of bringing a play into the world, although the long conversations inevitably remind one that this is, in fact, a filmed play.

Director-writer Herb Gardner wrote the play A Thousand Clowns, which became one of my favorite movies, and there are similarities between the two. Both are about the uncomfortable tension between idealism and realism, and neither offers much comfort to the world's idealists. Here realism is felt most strongly in the debilitating effects of old age. Yet both films admire those who battle reality, even if the best you can ever hope for is a draw.
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Herb Gardner filming his own charming play
OJT8 September 2013
I haven't sen the play, before I saw this film, but this is once more one of those plays which might be really great to see in the theater, and that might be electric on stage, but doesn't really function all that good as a movie.

We meets couple of old men, usually meeting each other on a park bench. They talk about everything, amongst some lies and fantasies, and his is a day we meet them. A day which is more special than others. The two old men at played by Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis.

I love the theater, as I love film. And sometimes it functions well to turn a play into a movie. But a film goer will most likely demand more. But great acting is a blast to watch. Both leading actors are doing a good job, and in the theater I really could see them performing perfectly. The acting is theatrical, no wonder, but on film I think it falls a bit through as a bit too theatrical.

Still I think an older audience will enjoy this more than a younger audience, which will expect more action. This is a talkative movie, full of wisdom and truth. And full of sentimentality. It's a heart warming play.

It way more than two old guys on a bench all the film through, as written by a reviewer here. Don't believe that.
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