Incredible Shrinking Woman, The (1981)
“To my family, I’d become a doll — and to our dog, a chew-stick.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
— plays upon newfound societal fears about environmental contaminants. Unfortunately, Tomlin is a bit too bland in the title role as a happily married housewife faced with the ultimate nightmare:
(though she has fun in a secondary role playing a helpful neighbor named Judith Beasley), and the screenplay misses out on ripe opportunities for more incisive social commentary — either about the contested role of housewives in a male-dominated society, or the escalating presence of unknown chemicals in our everyday lives. Sadly, the film eventually devolves into a silly world-domination subplot involving — sigh — a captive humanoid gorilla (famed makeup artist Rick Baker in a suit), rather than allowing Tomlin’s character to sink ever further into the horrors of increasing diminution (as is handled so effectively in the original film). However, while The Incredible Shrinking Woman is certainly no classic, the special effects are nicely handled, and it’s enjoyably loopy enough to merit a look by curious film fanatics.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
One thought on “Incredible Shrinking Woman, The (1981)”
Not a must.
~but somewhat better than I remembered it. I saw this on release (and not, I think, since then). In retrospect…since I had seen Tomlin & Wagner’s collaborative work that resulted, for example, in Tomlin’s rather subversive – and brilliant – one-woman show, ‘The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe’, I was rather disappointed that ‘TISW’ came off lightweight. Watching the film again now, many years later, I see it for what it is: an attempt at mild, mainstream comedy.
Does it work? …Yes, mildly. But probably not so much for fans of Tomlin & Wagner at their best.
Here and there, there are small gems in the writing. I love an observation from Lily (as Pat) like, “I knew I was being stared at, but I didn’t know I was being spied on – and in my own shopping mall.” And Wagner gets in some terrific trademark humor that you might miss if you’re not paying attention – like when Lily (as Judith) is in the supermarket reading the ingredients of a product (“…synthetic spermatozoa…tumescent tissue of bull scrotum…”). Another nice touch comes when former talk show host Mike Douglas starts his show (in honor of Pat) by singing “Little Things Mean A Lot”.
But it’s a shame that the film aims for acceptance from the masses instead of from real Tomlin/Wagner fans. As is, it sadly doesn’t even register as cult-worthy. It’s just oh-so-mildly pleasant. I don’t particularly mind the direction the script takes or escalates to (I actually rather like the King Kong aspect in the latter half). I just think it suffers from the lack of a wild element, which could have made it more memorable overall.
It’s sure a hell of a lot better than ‘Moment by Moment’ – apparently a film all involved with would rather just forget ever happened.