Aided by a superb script from playwright John Guare, director Louis Malle pulls off a minor coup here, celebrating his wounded characters even as he mercilessly reveals their dreams for the hopeless illusions they really are.
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Frenchman Louis Malle is an accomplished interpreter of the dreams and dilusions of American smalltimers. He draws first-rate performances from the cast, especially Lancaster as the burned-out hood and Sarandon as the single-minded survivor. [13 Apr 1981]
Malle's slow, deliberate direction tends to flatten out the script's emotional rhythms—he's stern and arty where a lighter sensibility might have been more appropriate—but the film is still a shimmering success.
Atlantic City is a sophisticated fairy tale, beautifully acted and beautiful to behold; it is as funny as it is touching.
A well observed and deeply tender tale.
This is a gentle, warm, well-acted movie, and easy to like.
What makes Atlantic City sweet -- and that's the word for it -- is the gentleness with which Lou handles his last chance at amounting to something, and the wisdom with which Sally handles Lou.
A rich, gaudy cinema trip.