Picks and Pans Review: Reuben, Reuben

updated 01/23/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/23/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

Actor Tom Conti's reputation derives mostly from Broadway, but his hilarious, touching performance as the boozed-out, womanizing poet hero of this film should establish him as a virtuoso screen actor. Conti plays a poet not unlike the late Dylan Thomas: He is giving readings in a small New England town when he falls in love with Kelly McGillis, a much younger woman who forgives him his wicked ways. The movie was written by Julius J. Epstein, who won an Oscar in 1942 for Casablanca and whose last previous film was House Calls. Conti is wonderful to watch: stealing tips from restaurants his wealthy patrons take him to, confounding local citizens with ribald innuendoes and often drinking himself into a stupor. McGillis, 26, makes the kind of debut actresses dream of, displaying the clean-cut sexuality of a Grace Kelly. (The title role is played by an exuberant English sheepdog who figures in the Conti-McGillis meeting.) Reuben, Reuben was directed by Robert Ellis (The Heart Is & Lonely Hunter) Miller, who shows a restraint that's all too uncommon these days. (R)

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