They Might Be Giants might be best known now for being the film that the nerdy indie band of the same name who wrote that song about a nightlight took their name from. This is very cool but the film is actually worth seeing as well. It takes it name from line of dialogue about Don Quixote believing windmills are giants or at the very least they might be giants.
It stars George C. Scott near the end of his extraordinary run of roles in the ’60s and ’70s, he would win the best actor Oscar for Patton in 1970. Paul Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward and a great actress in her own right co-stars. Scott is a millionaire Justin Playfair who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes after his wife passes away. Woodward plays the psychiatrist Mildred Watson. She becomes involved in the case of Justin Playfair after his brother tries to commit him for observation. They ended up becoming a team like Sherlock and Watson in the then modern-day New York City.
The film is very interesting mainly due to how it plays around in a light-hearted but ultimately deeply moving way with what means to be sane or insane and finally who is really insane? It could almost be a Terry Gilliam film in that way and in some ways predates what he did so brilliantly in The Fisher King. I wonder if the screenwriter Richard LaGravenese had They Might Be Giants in the back of his mind when he wrote The Fisher King.
The two lead performances are obviously great and they have real chemistry. George C. Scott had a reputation for being difficult but from all accounts it looks like it was a fairly smooth shoot for everyone involved. Woodward gives arguably the more impressive performance by being initially a skeptic but eventually believing in Playfair’s madness. It also marks the debut of F. Murray Abraham who I have to admit I missed in the film but according to IMDB it was his big screen debut.
The film isn’t without flaws and never really escapes its basis of being originally a stage play. The film is also incredibly short at only 83 minutes and the penultimate scene in a grocery store is missing in all DVD releases for some reason. I think it could have used an extra half an hour easily to let the two characters have more time to go on mysteries around the city. The film does however have a textbook ambiguous ’70s ending which is perfect. I just wish it went on a little longer but that’s the sign of a good film.