Having said that, there are at least three Canadian connections in this film.
For one, the movie was co-produced by French and Canadian companies. Second, apart from the leads (Burt Lancaster as Lou Pascal and Susan Sarandon as Sally Matthews) and some local extras, most of the cast hailed from Canada or France.
Third, Canada figures within the story itself. Sally (Lou’s secret crush, who he spies on as she smears lemon on her bare body—in a kind of citrus-y homage to Miss Torso from Rear Window) is from a dinky town north of the border.
She’s in Atlantic City to learn to be a blackjack dealer with the hope of graduating into the ranks of the Monte Carlo casinos. Sally represents the youthful hopes and dreams of a small town girl trying to make it big.
Lou, on the other hand, is an aging gangster whose star has faded, much like Atlantic City, which at that point is in pretty decrepit condition. The grand old hotels are being demolished to make way for the fancy casinos. Lou represents what’s left of the old Atlantic City back in its glory days. “You should have seen the Atlantic Ocean back then,” he says, in one of the film’s sentimental (if inadvertently funny) lines.
So, yeah—lots of metaphors going on here.
But Sally’s ex-husband follows her with a load of stolen cocaine that he wants to sell. And, of all things, he drags along Sally’s sister, whom (get this!) he impregnated.
However, that’s not all! Along with making a paltry living by running numbers, Lou serves as grudging caretaker for Grace, an elderly invalid who lives downstairs and periodically summons him by ringing a bell. Like a live-in Butler, as imagined by Damon Runyon.
Atlantic City itself is a character in the film. It’s a story of hopes and dreams, a glorious past, and an uncertain future. You could say it gives a Franco-Canadian perspective on the American Dream.
And, yeah—Lou and the lemon-fresh Sally end up in the sack an intimate relationship. For a Franco-Canadian movie, that plot device smacks strongly of Hollywood. But, hey—it’s Burt Lancaster. Old and gray, but still Burt Lancaster.
Without revealing spoilers, I’ll say the film concludes on just the right note—with a bittersweet sense of the inevitable.
I love this film, so I’m awarding it two thumbs up!