' ' Cinema Romantico: Dissecting a Scene: Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night - Part 2

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Dissecting a Scene: Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night - Part 2

Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night Appreciation Week continues with Part 2. Read Part 1 Here.

The second stanza of Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night commences with this wide shot of dancers, briefly reminding us that this whole shin-dig is, like, supposed to be fun.

But fun, alas, is not what Frank is having, as his expression suggests, the camera purposely framing him through the dancers to demonstrate how he is not even paying attention to them. 

No, as this point-of-view shot reveals, he’s watching Jimmy and Russell across the way, Russell delicately feeling him out, trying to get to the core of what’s ailing Jimmy, wondering if his beef is all about money. But, of course, it’s not about money, it’s not about money at all.

“This is my union!” Jimmy hollers, giving Pacino a chance to indulge his inner hoo-ah styling.

And demonstrating the sequence’s verbal repetition, Pacino has Hoffa lean forward and implore, once again, “This is my union, all right, let’s start with that.”

Pesci looks down for a second, as if summoning the strength to have this conversation. “Some people,” he says, “not me - are a little concerned. Some people - not me - feel you might be demonstrating a failure to show-” and here is the key word “-appreciation”, twisting the whole concept of Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night into something else entirely.

“I’m not showing appreciation?” Jimmy says as Pacino thrusts his head back, pursing his lips, saying “C’moooon” without saying it.”

And then he unleashes. I mean, he really unleashes, as that face attests. “I went to school for five fuckin years. I didn’t name one fuckin name.”

“You did the right thing,” Russell says as Pesci looks right at him, the timbre of his voice a stamp of approval.  

Jimmy: “I had to sit there listening to that whining cocksucker from New Jersey-” 

That whining, ah, cocksucker being the man at whom he is pointing, Frank Fitzsimmons (Gary Basraba), Fitz, the current union stooge holding Jimmy’s rightful throne, to whom the camera cuts, over there in his own world.

Jimmy: “-when all I wanted was to eat my ice cream in peace. This cocksucker shows up to a meeting fifteen minutes late in fucking shorts. Who wears shorts to a meeting?” 

“Nobody,” Russell agrees, a line reading in which Pesci deftly manifests its meaning with his face, this small, understanding smile that lets you know he is, in some respects, very much on Jimmy’s side.

I’m not showing appreciation,” Jimmy says flatly, ridiculing the whole state of affairs. 

“It’s not me,” Russell says, “according to some people” as, by this point, “according to some people” has assumed the tenor of a laconic comedy routine. And the long shot Schoonmaker switches to lets us see Pacino squint, not like he can’t see but like he can’t believe Russell is still going back to this well, which is why he mocks the turn of phrase by saying “Some people. Not you.”

Pesci does not have Russell get angry in return because, like that small smile above, he evinces a sense throughout the scene of someone who grasps the absurdity of this tap dance even though he also understands that it’s the way it has to be. “I’m trying to help you,” Russell offers.

“I know you are,” Jimmy says, sort of cocking his head to the left, about to throw a punch with words, “but nobody threatens Hoffa.”

And then Jimmy walks away...

...as we return to Frank’s P-O-V, framed through dancers, the long shot making Russell seem so small.

The scene continues, then, with Jimmy’s speech, which we come into halfway as he talks about Frank’s record for arrests on the picket line.

Jimmy laughs at the story.

And I love this shot of Salerno, who, despite the earlier protestations of Hoffa, allows himself a small smile here, like he’s still gotta respect the story, you know?

“He’s a union man,” Jimmy says of Frank, “to his bones”, with Pacino really drawing out that last word, before asking the crowd, in his own warped version of Pete Seeger, “Which side are you on?”

“Your side!” the crowd hollers in return, underscored by a shot from behind Jimmy looking out over the whole room.

“My side!” Jimmy shots back.

But then a cut to the Fitz. He is not pleased. He might be a stooge but he knows what Jimmy’s doing, riling up the people, getting them on his side.

An embrace between the two friends.

And Frank’s concise thank you speech, befitting man used to doing what he’s told rather than telling people what to do.

He thanks his wife.

His daughter Mary Ann.

His daughters Dolores and Connie.

And, tellingly, last, Peggy.

Then he singles out Jimmy. “This man,” Frank says, “gets the job done.”

“I’m behind you, Jimmy,” he emphasizes, communicating, at least for now, whose side he is on.

And a cut back to Fitz, who turns away, scanning the crowd, as if he’s gauging who’s applauding and who’s not.

This stanza ends with a family photograph where Paquin plasters on this gigantic smile. More on that tomorrow.

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