The End (1978) Short Review
The End was a film made at a time when Burt Reynolds was a big enough box office draw that he could star in films that were really just excuses to hang out with his friends on a movie set. The stories in a lot of these are just to tie together the guest appearances. If you like Burt Reynolds when he’s in Cornball mode, then you’ll probably like this one.
FSU alumnus (just had to throw that out there) Reynolds plays Sonny Lawson, a man that finds out that he has a terminal illness where he MAY die imminently. I say ‘may’ because the when is vague. He vows to die with some nobility, but after visiting the terminal ward at the hospital decides that he doesn’t want to see the illness through to the bitter end. So he begins contemplating the best way to end it all.
He first visits a church where he is consoled by the appropriately named Father Benson played by Robbie Benson. The scene reminded me of the Coen Brothers film A Serious Man, where the main character seeks council with a rabbi that is half his age. That one plays out similarly to this where Benson is both excited by his first confessional and by the fact that Reynolds has led an impressively sinful life.
Then he visits friends and family. Sally Field appears as the girlfriend who may not love him, but enjoys his company. Like the other people in the film, she seems as though she’s making an extended cameo. She only appears at the one location (her home) and even though she pops up again when Reynolds wants to borrow her gun, her appearances seem like it was probably filmed in a day or two.
His mother and father are played by screen legend Myrna Loy and veteran character actor Pat O’Brien. Joanne Woodward plays the ex-wife. Lawson makes it a point to be nicer to all of them than he normally is, which is part of the film’s point; that we are nicer when death looks immediate, when we should probably be that way all along. Anyway…
Teen Dream Kristy McNicholl makes an appearance as the estranged daughter. Her role is a little cliched, but then everyone in the movie is to some point. Lawson says his goodbyes, though and then sets out to do himself in… In the least painful way. It’s funny that occasional Reynolds sidekick Dom DeLuise gets second billing, because he doesn’t appear until halfway in
After Lawson’s first attempt at suicide, he ends up in the funny farm and naturally he wakes up to a pantsless DeLuise, who claims to be a paranoid schizophrenic. He quickly attaches himself to Lawson and does what he can to help speed things along.
There are some other cameos, too. James Best makes a short appearance as a hospital patient that doesn’t want to give up the phone. Character actor Strother Martin shows up as a looney bin doctor. Norman Fell is the doctor that gives Reynolds the bad news in nonchalant fashion. Carl Reiner is one of the movie’s highlights. He plays an extremely optimistic doctor that has a terminal illness of his own. The end of his scene was expected, but still funny.
The movie did go where I thought it would, but I was only expecting the typical slapstick, bad pun humor that goes with these types of Reynolds late 70s/early 80s vehicles. Is it a good film? Not really, but it does surprise in stating some of the typical truths that many take for granted. This is probably the lightest take on this type of subject matter… It’s devoid of any moping. If you’re not a Reynolds fan, this will probably be grating, but if you are, you’ll probably enjoy the movie to some degree. It did have a laugh out loud moment or two. Reynolds movies are always worth a few chuckles.
3 of 5