Inside Moves (1980): Donner’s Disability Melodrama, Starring John Savage and Diana Scarwid in Oscar-Nominated Performance

Before he became an impersonal action filmmaker, Richard Donner had directed some more intimate and interesting films, such as “Inside Moves,” a compassionate, well acted melodrama about what it means to be a disabled American.

Based on the Todd Walton novel of the same name, adapted to the screen by Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, the tale deals with the volatile, troubled relationship between Roary (John Savage), who has unsuccessfully tried to kill himself, and the hair-trigger Jerry (David Morse), a basketball player who has no money to pay for an operation to repair his knee.

Roary, who has been permanently crippled after jumping off a building, travels an emotional route from being deeply depressed, defeated, and embittered to gradually regaining self-esteem and a sense of confidence around people.

Helping him in this long, torturous road to emotional recovery is Louise (Diana Scarwid), a young woman dealing with the handicapped.

Adding colors and shades to the proceedings is the broader context of a neighborhood bar, which is full of interesting misfits.  When Jerry the bartender suddenly finds himself playing basketball for the Golden State Warriors, Roary and the rest of the bar regulars hope his success will provide a lift to their sagging spirits.

John Savage was quite a popular actor at the time, having played one of the leads in the 1978 Oscar-winning “The Deer Hunter.”

Diana Scarwid received a Best Actress Supporting nomination for this picture, which she followed with two more interesting performances, in “Mommie Dearest” (1981), as Joan Crawford’s daughter, and in “Silkwood” (1983), as Cher’s lesbian lover.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Supporting Actress: Diana Scarwid

Oscar Awards:


Oscar Context:

The winner of the 1980 Supporting Actress winner was Mary Steenbergen for “Melvin and Howard.”