My Review of ‘Atlantic City’ (1980)


First off, you should know that this review is part of the “O Canada!” blogathon, co-hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy.

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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!

Hand showing thumbs up. All on white background.


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13 Responses to My Review of ‘Atlantic City’ (1980)

  1. I remember when I first saw this movie back on cable in 1981, my best friend and I would laugh uncontrollably at “You take the lemons…” However, as an adult, this is a bittersweet love story about two lost souls who really don’t fit in with their circumstances so they end up trying to find solace in each other. Yes, it smacks of Hollywood (albeit Louis Malle style) but you pointed out, it’s Burt Lancaster. Terrific review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve not seen this film, despite the great cast and the Canadian connections. This would not be the last time Canada & France teamed up in film ventures, and I think the result is always worth it.

    Thanks for joining the blogathon, and for bringing the fab Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wasn’t going to the movies a lot when this was released and it completely slipped my mind. I have a lot of catching up to do and it will be interesting to see how many of those Canadian actors I recognize.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Todd B says:

    I’ve seen this movie just once, back in theaters when it was first released, and I remember nothing about it, at all. Your review sparked a few memories, and since I’m a fan of Burt Lancaster, I think it’s time to watch it again. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate seeing a dying Atlantic City boardwalk in the film back then, but I think I would if I watched it now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      It’s been a while for me, too. I remember seeing this in the theater. I also remember going to Atlantic City back in its better days. The movie resonated with me in so many ways. I’m glad my review sparked your renewed interest.


  5. Kristina says:

    Nice choice and one I should revisit! Agree about anything with Burt being worth a look, too. Thanks so much for taking part in this blogathon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bob Johns says:

    I feel like I have seen this way back when just might have to look into it again! I love Susan Sarandon.

    Liked by 1 person

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