Browsed by
Month: January 2015

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Romancing the Stone (1984)

“You’re the best time I’ve ever had.”

Synopsis:
A romance novelist (Kathleen Turner) hoping to rescue her kidnapped sister (Mary Ellen Trainor) from jewel thieves falls in love with a rugged adventurer (Michael Douglas) she meets in the Amazonian jungle.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Hidden Treasure
  • Jungles
  • Kathleen Turner Films
  • Michael Douglas Films
  • Romance

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “very entertaining, very funny roller-coaster ride of a movie” — shot on location in Colombia — possesses “many clever touches”. He notes that the “film’s surprise treasure is Turner’s thoroughly dazzling and likable characterization” as Joan Wilder, a woman who switches “from being everybody’s easy touch in New York to a tough-as-nails (but still sweet and sentimental) heroine in the real jungle”; indeed, in his Alternate Oscars book, he names Turner Best Actress of the Year for her performance. In this book, he writes that “we root for Joan as we do for few heroines in adventure films”, in part because Turner “and screenwriter Diane Thomas created a woman” who is not only “alluring to men” but appealing to women. Turner’s character is “funny, smart, and pretty” — an “inspiration for every woman viewer who needs a nudge to pursue her exciting dreams”.

Interestingly, Peary’s review(s) focus almost exclusively on Turner rather than going into detail about the storyline itself. He does note that one of the film’s highlights involves “a horde of mean peasant-highwaymen [who] turn out to be… fanatics” of Wilder’s romance novels (this scene is gut-tickling), but the entire screenplay is surprisingly engaging, full of nicely played comedic touches and heart-racing plot twists. The on-location shooting — helmed by director Robert Zemeckis and DP Dean Cundey — effectively transports us to a world of exotic danger and excitement, and Douglas is well-cast as Turner’s reluctant (at first) compatriot and lover. It’s too bad that the film’s sequel — The Jewel of the Nile (1985), not scripted by Thomas or directed by Zemeckis — is purportedly a disappointment; it’s not listed in GFTFF.

Note: Thomas’s untimely death just before the release of The Jewel of the Nile was quite tragic; click here for more details.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Kathleen Turner as Joan Wilder (named Best Actress of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars)
  • Michael Douglas as Jack Colton
  • Many rousing adventure scenes
  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a fun romantic comedy-adventure with a likeable female lead.

Categories

Links:

Star, The (1952)

Star, The (1952)

“If you’re a star, you don’t stop being a star.”

Synopsis:
When former box-office queen Margaret Elliott (Bette Davis) goes on a drunken spree, she’s bailed out of jail by a boat mechanic (Sterling Hayden) secretly in love with her — but can she make the starring come-back she so desperately desires?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Actors and Actresses
  • Bette Davis Films
  • Has-Beens
  • Natalie Wood Films
  • Sterling Hayden Films

Review:
Two years after her Oscar-nominated role as theatrical powerhouse Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950) — and Gloria Swanson’s similarly nominated role in Sunset Boulevard (1950) — Bette Davis starred in this lower-budget variation (directed by Stuart Heisler) on the theme of middle-aged divas struggling to maintain their pride and identity in the face of an expired (or threatened) career. In this case, Davis’s Margaret Elliott is more akin to Swanson’s “Norma Desmond” than Margo, in that they are both tragically deluded about the endurance of their appeal; indeed, given that Elliott is similarly “rescued” by a hunky young sun-kissed man, overt parallels between The Star and Sunset Boulevard are unmistakable.

Davis — who purportedly had Joan Crawford in mind when playing Elliott — gives a nuanced, sympathetic performance as a woman unable to face the reality of her circumstances. The scene in which she watches herself in a screen-test, cringing in horror at the results of her vain refusal to accept her director’s guidelines, is masterful:

… and her interactions with her ungrateful sister (Fay Baker) and brother-in-law (Herb Vigran) are nicely handled.

However, the screenplay is ultimately a disappointment in comparison with the two classic titles referenced above, and it’s hard not to feel frustrated by what could have been done with this juicy set-up. The trajectory of the storyline — particularly Elliott’s romance with Hayden:

… is too predictable, and some patently overwrought dialogue (“I once thought you were a woman. I was wrong; you’re nothing but a career.”) — place the film squarely in the realm of “women’s dramas”. However, Davis’s performance is strong enough to recommend The Star for at least one-time viewing.

Trivia Note: Fourteen-year-old Natalie Wood plays a small role as Davis’s daughter, with one scene — taking place on Hayden’s boat — eerily foreshadowing the circumstances of her untimely death-by-drowning at the age of 43.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Bette Davis as Margaret Elliott

Must See?
No, though film fanatics will likely be curious to check it out.

Links: