Diner: The Stellar Cast List And Subtle Story That Changed Movies

By Cyn Felthousen-Post
Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, and Steve Guttenberg in Diner. Source: (imdb)

Barry Levinson's 1982 coming-of-age movie Diner was a small movie with a nothing cast that was only modestly successful -- but its actors went on to become big stars, and it influenced movies and TV in the decades that followed. Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Paul Reiser, Steve Guttenberg, Ellen Barkin, Tim Daly, and Daniel Stern were more or less unknowns when they signed on to do Levinson's sentimental project, based on the director's youth as a guy who sat in a Baltimore coffee shop shooting the breeze with his buddies, pondering life's minutiae and (indirectly) its complexities. And if that setup seems familiar, it's because characters have been having trivial conversations in diners ever since, whether they're the neurotic New Yorkers of Seinfeld or the cranky killers in Tarantino movies. Diner does have a plot -- but it's odd and almost incidental. This movie is all about characters and their relationships.