Choose Me (1984)

“Men fantasize about her; women trust her.”

Choose Me Poster

Synopsis:
A mysterious drifter (Keith Carradine) enters the lives of a renowned radio talk show host (Genevieve Bujold) and a bar owner (Lesley Ann Warren) in Los Angeles.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “zany film” about “troubled characters who make coincidental connections with each other, put up false fronts, act crazy, and are hopelessly confused and worried about sex, love, marriage, and their inability to communicate” is a sleeper favorite of many — possibly because we can all relate to feeling this way ourselves at one point or another in our lives. The “preposterous” ensemble storyline (written by Rudolph) nonetheless “has the ‘logic’ of crazy real life”, and “we willingly suspend our disbelief because we’re touched by the characters and root for them to make it out of their misery”. This is due in large part to the “superb” cast, with Lesley Ann Warren giving perhaps her most vulnerable performance, and Genevieve Bujold digging deep into the neuroses of her character — a famed sexologist who, ironically, has never experienced satisfying intimacy herself. Carradine essentially plays yet another a variation on his standard womanizing persona, but, as Peary notes, in this film we “believe him each time” he “tells [a] woman that he loves her and wants to marry her”, and we’re relieved that he ultimately “manages to be a positive influence.” Adding to the film’s dreamlike ambience are Jan Kiesser’s cinematography (evoking a nighttime L.A. unlike any other I’ve seen) and the jazzy soundtrack by Teddy Pendergrass, whose “Choose me, baby” refrain emerges at strategic, emotionally loaded moments.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Genevieve Bujold as Dr. Love/Ann
    Choose Me Bujold
  • Lesley Ann Warren as Eve (voted one of the best actresses of the year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars book)
  • Lush, evocative visuals
  • Teddy Pendergrass’s background score

Must See?
Yes, as perhaps Rudolph’s most memorable film.

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One Response to “Choose Me (1984)”

  1. An absolute must! And one that holds up surprisingly well on repeat viewings – in fact, it may take several viewings, not to understand the film but to appreciate it fully as the ornate tapestry that it is.

    This is Alan Rudolph’s only successful film as writer/director. (In 1991, he managed effective handling of a script he didn’t write: ‘Mortal Thoughts’.) Serendipity was at work here: Rudolph has perhaps the best ensemble he ever assembled; the dominating, deeply heartfelt Pendergrass vocals, as well as the supplementary jazz interludes are inspired; and the behind-the-scenes team is clearly of one mind – DP, production/costume designers, editor.

    The result is a major contender for best film about ‘this crazy thing called love’. So much of the film’s examination of passion/longing/romance works so well in elucidating what a wild thing the heart can be – so it’s easy to forgive the film’s flaws.

    And it is flawed in some ways. The script’s overall structure is solid but the number of coincidences is noticeable. Although there are quite a few memorable one-liners, there are times the dialogue is borderline ludicrous – and, at times, it jumps the border altogether. (I must say, some of Rudolph’s script gems are strategic exchanges that get the job done in four to six lines.)

    The good news is that the flaws are perhaps less apparent on an initial viewing. That’s thanks not only to the film’s dreamlike quality (which makes realism here not all that important) but also to the top-notch cast playing the material as if their lives depended on it.

    That is especially true of the leads. Carradine may still be Carradine here but, to me, this seems perhaps his most natural, relaxed performance. Ultimately, though, the film belongs to Bujold and Warren.

    And does it ever! This pairing of characters is truly fascinating and the actors are clearly having a ball sinking their teeth into them. (Bujold’s solo scenes in the radio station are priceless!) Each and every scene they have together (and there are many), whether on the phone (not knowing each other’s true identity) or in person, is nothing short of riveting. A one-of-a-kind match of fate.

    Though the film is generally a nourishing treat, the best may be left for last: watch Warren’s face when she’s on the bus with Carradine – I love how she slips between a feeling of bliss to “Oh, God, what the f**k did I just do?”

    A fave visual: the painting in Warren’s dining room (!) is of a woman stabbing a man; at the base, it is written: “A recurring image – I have often thought of killing him.” L’amour fou, indeed!

    [On my 55th.]

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