In theory, 85 minutes is not a significant amount of time. After all, a typical day can be divided into almost 17 consecutive 85-minute blocks of time.
Yet, as I suffered through the 85-minute film Bye Bye Baby, I started to wonder about the power of that single chunk of time. Unquestionably, I had ceded 85 minutes of my frenetic life for the higher purpose of ensuring the comprehensiveness of my billiards movie blog, but was the sacrifice worth it? What else has been, or could have been, accomplished with the same amount of time?
Before entertaining that question, let’s focus on the film. Directed by Erico Oldoini, Bye Bye Baby was released in Italy in 1988 and a year later in the United States. The movie stars former supermodel Carol Alt and Luca Barbareschi respectively as Sandra and Paolo, a couple from Milan whose marital troubles lead them through a series of fights, divorce, affairs, betrayals, abandonments, trysts, some escapades on the Mauritius Islands, more fights, more betrayals, and a near fatal car accident. Along the way, Sandra falls for a dreamy doctor, and Paolo gets involved with Lisa, a professional pool shark, played by Danish model Brigitte Nielsen.
Essentially, this movie is a vehicle for two ‘80s models, Ms. Alt and Ms. Nielsen, to act quasi-sexy, bend over pool tables, wear revealing swimsuits, and engage in B-rated lovemaking scenes that lack even the suggested nudity. For Ms. Alt, who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1982, and was on the cover of more than 500 magazines in the 1980s, Bye Bye Baby timed with her decision to start acting in European films around 1986. For Ms. Nielsen, the timing was a less fortuitous. Having married Sylvester Stallone in 1985 and gained fame through her iconic tough-woman roles in Red Sonja, Rocky IV, and Cobra, by 1988 she was already divorced and starring in bottom-of-the-bucket films.
Bye Bye Baby did nothing to help these ladies’ careers. (In fact, the movie earned Ms. Nielsen a Razzie for Worst Actress in 1990.) The plot is hackneyed, the script is vapid, the acting is wooden, the attempts at humor are misguided, and the music, which includes tracks by Ms. Nielsen, is repetitive and misplaced. The critic for the Los Angeles Times said it well:
The plot is nothing more than an endless, deja vu -provoking cycle of cheating lovers; the profane and daringly banal dialogue seems almost wholly improvised…; and it seems designed as a sex comedy, though there’s not much sex and even less comedy. It might not be too egregious an example of crying “wolf” to warn at this point that Bye Bye Baby is just about as howlingly rotten as any movie ever made.
But, hey, I’ve endured my share of lemons, since launching 8 Ball on the Silver Screen. I can deal with low-budget cinema. What I cannot tolerate is terrible on-screen billiards, and in this category, Ms. Nielsen is in a league unto herself. Starring as a top-ranked player, who competes in a mix of regular billiards and the Italian game of 5-pins, Ms. Nielsen can barely hold a cue stick, never mind take a stroke. It is embarrassing watching her stumble her way through the various billiards sequences. Even with the mediocre editing, and the occasional creative five-pins shot, it’s still painful viewing. (For a more engaging portrayal of 5-pins or the related game goriziana, check out the far more satisfying Italian movie The Pool Hustlers.)
Given this abomination of a film, one can appreciate the impetus for my original question about what else can be accomplished in 85 minutes. It turns out a whole helluva lot.
Keeping with the cinematic milieu, a far better use of 85 minutes would be to watch Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981); the gut-busting mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984); Gary Cooper in High Noon (1952); or Fruitvale Station (2013), the racially charged film by Ryan Coogler based on the real-life subway shooting of Oscar Grant. Or, if music is your thing, spend the 85 minutes listening to Arcade Fire’s album Reflektor.
History can, in fact, be made in 85 minutes. In 1908, the Tigers lost the final fifth game of the World Series to the Cubs in a game that lasted 85 minutes. A leatherback turtle set the world record for a marine dive by holding its breath for 85 minutes.
So, whether it’s the amount of time it takes to make an LL Bean Boot, the amount of time one person needs to make seven kid-friendly freezer meals, or the amount of time a quintet of British rotary clubs spent preparing 12,000 meals as part of a Stop Hunger campaign, the evidence is everywhere that the time could have been better spent.
Bye bye Bye Bye Baby. I want my 85 minutes back.