“Nothing simple, Miss Cake, is ever pure.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
I’m largely in agreement with Peary’s points above — for its first hour, that is. While it took me a while to get used to the film’s markedly theatrical tone, I was fascinated by Byrum’s premise, and wanted to know more about these oddly believable characters. Playing an annoyingly voiced actress reduced to starring in stag films after the introduction of talkies, Cartwright (you’ll barely recognize her at first):
gives an incredibly charismatic and fearless performance: we’re immediately intrigued by her relationship with Dreyfuss (also very good):
and astonished by her willingness to play a role so aggressively sexual. At about the mid-way point, unfortunately, her character is no longer central to the screenplay, and Jessica Harper as “Cathy Cake” suddenly dominates the story — and it’s at this point that the artificiality of Byrum’s set-up is suddenly glaringly apparent.
To cut to the chase, I’m astonished that neither Peary (nor any other critic I’ve read so far) points out how disturbingly skeletal Harper is (Peary simply calls her “great” in the role). This feature makes much more sense in her best-known role as a ballerina in Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), but is almost laughably inappropriate here. Her character — girlfriend of a producer (Bob Hoskins) 00 is desperate to play a role in Dreyfuss’s latest film (most specifically, to help out with his sexually explicit “inserts”) but this defies all common sense, given that she looks nothing like Cartwright. Naturally, women of all sizes and shapes might desire a role in porn films, yet her request here simply comes across as a plot device, one meant to lead us to the film’s revelatory denouement. I hate to focus on a woman’s appearance as a deal-breaker in her suitability for a role — but in this case, it put a serious damper on my ability to believe in (or pay attention to) what I was seeing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: