Poor piano music. It gets pounded away and pressed into service as a backdrop for a prissy romance in The Competition.. The feeble premise rests on having two contestants fall in love during a piano competition. They are Amy Irving as Heidi Joan Schoonover and, alas and alack, Richard Drey-
fuss as Paul Dietrich. When a Russian entrant’s teacher defects, the playoffs are held up for a week to allow these two time to get it together. He’s sassy and more than just a touch obnoxious; she’s aggressive and more than just a touch stupid for putting up with him. His parents have spent a small fortune for his training, and his dad is dying; she’s accompanied by her teacher (Lee Remick) who talks, in four-letter form, about sacrifice and discipline. Love has seldom been so dreary.
The director and screenwriter, Joel Oliansky, somehow manages to make San Francisco visually dull, and you can feel the plot turns arriving the way an arthritic can predict the weather. But the real thorn in this rosebush of a movie is Dreyfuss, whose acting is comparable to a pile of feathers in front of a fan: he’s all over the place. That highpitched laugh of his bears a resemblance to chalk moving the wrong way on a blackboard—and, if he weren’t cocky enough, now he’s wearing a cap at an adorable angle. It is hard to believe that Dreyfuss, with his stubby little fingers, can play Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto so well. But then music gets short shrift in The Competition, since the characters rarely talk about it with unbridled passion. After 125 minutes the entire effect produced by this combination of triplets and tears is nothing more than a tinkle. L.O’T.
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