Barfly: A Retrospective On The Bar Hopper

We all like to think we can handle our grog and drink all night long. A little known movie from 1987 called Barfly realistically and hilariously depicts both the many highs and lows bar hoppers experience.

Mickey Rourke plays Henry Chinaski, a wisecracking bum whose only two activities in life are writing and getting drunk at seedy LA bars. He always gets wasted with the other eccentric drunks at his favourite bar The Golden Horn where he often gets into brawls with bartender Eddie (Frank Stallone; Sly’s brother). Henry soon meets Wanda (Faye Dunaway), another lost soul consumed by booze, and the two hit it off as quickly as they can down shots.

Barfly could be considered a day in the life type of story. Well, I say “story” loosely; the film’s basically just a bunch of stuff that happens rather than a cohesive plot. But all of that is beside the point; Barfly is so freakin’ funny and entertaining! It’s one of my favourite movies, so of course I had to get other nightlife enthusiasts to become aware of this forgotten gem. It’s all about the characters and all the bullshit they rant on about, making you kind of want to hang out with these guys!

Barfly‘s packed with quotable one-liners as well:

– Henry when fighting Eddie: “Quitting to you would be like swallowing piss for eternity!”

– Old man refuses to pay $20 for head, and the elderly prostitute says: “Nobody in this neighbourhood can swallow paste like I can.”

– Henry taunting Eddie: “I remember ordering a draught, barkeep. What, are you out of brew, or has that lobotomy finally taken hold?”

Though very funny, Barfly also shows the darker realities of binge drinking. Neither Henry nor Wanda have a job or much of a life outside of bars, they’re both lonely, often get into nasty bar brawls, and have no future. There’s one very depressing scene where an old man ties a bandana on his right hand and pulls it up with his left hand to have a shot because his right hand’s incapable of doing so from all the booze he’s had over the years, foreshadowing Henry’s future.

Despite the bleakness of his situation, Henry’s toast at the end of the film “To all my friends” is bittersweet; his life sucks, but he wouldn’t have it any other way and you can’t help but feel happy for him. Most people don’t get to live the life they yearn to lead, so good on Henry for getting to do so, even if it is being the type of drunken bum stumbling around the streets who cops dirty looks.

Originally published here at barsandnightclubs.com.au on Saturday 5 May 2012

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