Watch The Ritz
- 1 hr 31 min
The Ritz, a 1976 comedy directed by Richard Lester, takes place entirely in one location - a lavish gay bathhouse in Manhattan. The story follows Gaetano Proclo (Jack Weston), a Cleveland-based meat-packer who flees to New York to escape the Mafia after unwittingly witnessing a murder committed by his brother-in-law, Carmine Vespucci (played by Treat Williams). Desperate for a place to hide, Gaetano ends up at The Ritz, where he pretends to be a Broadway producer to evade detection.
As he tries to blend in with the flamboyant regulars of the bathhouse, Gaetano's ignorance about the gay scene creates a series of misunderstandings and embarrassing situations. Meanwhile, a diverse cast of characters populates the Ritz, including Chris (Rita Moreno), a brassy and outspoken performer who aspires to a career on Broadway; Vivian (Kaye Ballard), the no-nonsense manager of the bathhouse; and Googie (Jerry Stiller), a flamboyant and lively patron who takes a shine to Gaetano.
For Gaetano, the situation quickly spirals out of control as Carmine, with the help of a corrupt cop, launches a search for him in the city. In a mad dash to avoid detection, Gaetano and his new friends hatch a series of outrageous schemes, culminating in a hilarious finale that involves a wild cabaret performance, a handcuffed headliner, and mistaken identities galore.
At its core, The Ritz is a zany farce that revels in its madcap storyline and over-the-top characters. The film's ensemble cast, led by Weston's endearing and befuddled performance, deliver a barrage of quips, one-liners, and physical gags that keep the pace brisk and the laughter rolling. The script, adapted by Terrence McNally from his own play, doesn't shy away from the campy and absurd, and the film's satirical take on the New York gay scene of the 1970s is both affectionate and irreverent.
The Ritz also stands out for its progressive representation of LGBTQ characters, particularly for its time. Although some of the humor may now be considered dated, the film remains a landmark of representation for its portrayal of openly gay men who are not defined by stereotypes or caricatures. It's a celebration of gay culture and acceptance that doesn't shy away from the realities of homophobia and discrimination, but ultimately offers a message of joy and inclusivity.
The film's production design is also a standout, and the bathhouse serves as a jaw-droppingly opulent backdrop for the chaotic action. The sets, costumes, and lighting are all exquisitely detailed and vibrant, lending the film a kaleidoscopic visual style that matches its comedic energy.
While The Ritz may not be a film that's for everyone, it's hard not to appreciate the sheer audacity and joyfulness of its premise. The film dares to be outrageous, silly, and heartfelt all at once, and it succeeds in creating a unique and memorable cinematic experience. If you're looking for a film that's both a product of its time and ahead of its time, The Ritz is a must-see.
The Ritz is a 1976 action movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 31 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.9.