ANYONE WANT to watch some guy pick up women? Especially a fat-lipped, insincere kid who says "Did anyone ever tell you you have the body of a Botticelli and the face of a De'gas?" Me neither. But luckily, there's a little more than that to James Toback's "The Pickup Artist."
Robert Downey's the lad in question. He practices his raking in front of a mirror, in a randy variation of De Niro's "You Talkin' to Me?" shtick: "Hi, I'm Jack Jericho," he goes, eternally smoothing his greasy hair. "Hi, hi." And then he tries the Botticelli line, or sometimes it's the body of Chagall (the body of Chagall?). He works hard. He'll leave his red Camaro convertible double-parked to rush to some passing beauty. And his lips will blur, as he raps it out, drawing from any pop school of thought he can ('80s Sensitive Male, Vegas Casinospeak, Calvin's predestination theory).
"Pickup's" "little more" is in its quirky characters and its intentionally goofy melodrama. Jack himself has a good side. He teaches children, and takes care of his feisty, diabetic grandma (who herself picks up men in Central Park and hides candy wrappers under her bed). Even the women he chases turn out to be interesting. One girl's going for the priesthood, another's walking a savage dog called Caligula . . .
But it doesn't matter much to one-track Jack. He just needs to fill the crumpled sheet of paper on which he keeps score with more names and numbers.
Then he meets quirk de la quirk Molly Ringwald -- Randy. And he falls in love. But, like all women you really want, Randy's got a peculiar set of problems. She's a sort of Brat Pack nihilist (and a museum guide!), doesn't believe a word of his tripe and lances his lines with cynicism (Disdain! Be still my heart!).
She's also in trouble with gangsters (led by a brilliantly scurrilous Harvey Keitel). Seems her drunkie-loser father (Dennis Hopper -- nice departure, Dennis) owes crooks with Mediterranean names a bunch of money -- $25,418 to be precise. And she's got until noon tomorra, or they're going to do to Dennis Hopper what he did to Isabella Rossellini in "Blue Velvet."
If Jack wants her, he's got to help. And she keeps running away too -- the elusive cynic. Success means chasing her to Atlantic City, it means being tough at the right times, and it means throwing that stupid list away. THE PICKUP ARTIST (R) --
At area theaters.