June 2011

"Saving Silverman" Betrays Unholy Love for Neil Diamond

One of my favorite comedies of all time is Saving Silverman, which seems to have been unjustly overlooked, for the most part, by both critics and fans alike.  In addition to ridiculous performances by Steve Zahn, Jack Black, Amanda Peet and Jason Biggs, nearly infinite quotability of at least half of the lines, and an absolutely absurd plot, a major player in the film is none other than Neil Diamond himself.

On the surface, Saving Silverman is a classic story about a couple of friends—Wayne LeFessier (Zahn) and J.D. McNugent (Black)—who team up to prevent their friend Darren Silverman (Biggs) from marrying his domineering fiancé, Judith (Peet).  What really ties the whole thing together for me, though, is the attention paid to the three friends’ love for Neil Diamond.  As Wayne recounts at the beginning of the movie, ever since his mother gave birth to him at the Hot August Night concert, he and Neil have always had a “cosmic connection.”  As it turns out, the friends do indeed form a Neil Diamond cover band called “Diamonds in the Rough,” where J.D. and Wayne play guitar and Darren plays synthesizer while all three are decked out in sequined shirts and Neil Diamond wigs. 

The Diamond love doesn’t stop there, though.  In actuality, Saving Silvermanuses Neil as much more than a cheesy pop culture reference—throughout the movie there are numerous funny but reverent inclusions of the singer.  At J.D. and Wayne’s house is a tribute area called the “Hall o’ Neil” that includes a sparkly shirt worn by Diamond in concert (which the pair “totally stole” from Diamond “while he was backstage taking a whiz”).  Further flashbacks reveal that the duo are banned from seeing Neil in concert because J.D. has previously accosted the singer in public and has also mailed him naked pictures.  When Darren’ s relationship starts to get serious, Judith makes him burn his Neil Diamond records, prompting Wayne (in the middle of a Diamonds In The Rough performance of “Cherry Cherry”) to exclaim, “She torched Neil?!  The woman’s a monster—she must be stopped.”

When Darren starts to develop a relationship with his long lost high school sweetheart, the two find that they share a love of “the greatest songwriter of this or any generation,” and the film’s hilarious climax features Neil himself.  Not to spoil too much of the movie’s conclusion (well, it hasbeen out for ten years), but Neil’s union with Diamonds In The Rough produces not only a few great Diamond song references (in response to Darren’s story Neil responds, “Love on the rocks—ain’t no big surprise,” and as the heroes’ van turns down America Ave. while approaching the impending wedding, Neil exclaims “Hey, we’re comin’ to America!”) but also a glorious film-ending group performance of “Holly Holy.”  Saving Silverman isn’t a great film by any means, but it sure is one hell of a funny one, and one that connoisseurs of crappy comedy should no longer overlook.  Its love of Neil, though, takes the film to the next level.