Cinema Obscura: Addicted to Love at 20

When it comes to love and laughter on the silver screen, I’ve always lumped Addicted to Love in with One Fine Day, two films released years after the Depression-era heyday of the screwball comedy. Both of these movies were deliberate homages to the screwball’s of the past, which says a lot about the enduring popularity of the classic film genre. Although the golden age of screwball comedy was the 1930s and ’40s, the genre never really went away.The ’80s and especially the ’90s, were an era of new screwball comedies that brought the the lightning-fast dialogue, pratfalls and double-takes of Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges to contemporary settings, they just didn’t call them screwball comedies any more.The dark, nocturnal streets of Greenwich Village provide a sinister backdrop to Addicted to Love‘s tale of jilted lovers. Maggie (Meg Ryan) and Sam (Matthew Broderick) team up play a game of Gaslight against their exes, when they find they’re making sweet music together. He wants her back, she wants his dignity!Diametrically opposite Maggie and Sam in their “bohemian hellhole” the bustling Upper East Side of New York is home to Melanie Parker (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Jack Taylor (George Clooney), two working single parents who agree to pool resources when their children miss a school field trip.Often dismissed as a retread of You’ve Got Mail, there’s a distinctly Ephronesque quality about One Fine DayAddicted to Love on the other hand could have been penned by the infamous writer Ben Hecht. Robert Gordon’s script is surprisingly literal, at one point it even has Maggie paraphrasing Robert Frost, as she goads Sam to “Take the road less traveled — it will make all the difference.”I can’t imagine the same line being delivered by Melanie Parker to Jack Taylor, although the template of One Fine Day is equally familiar. Slap a couple of big name stars in a “screwball comedy” vehicle, have them meet cute in a big city, and then spend the film denying their feelings, until love finally conquers all. Besides their shared stories of mismatched love, Addicted to Love and One Fine Day are also great time capsules of fin de siècle New York. Clooney, Pfeiffer and The Big Apple have never looked better and then there’s Meg Ryan, exploding onto the screen like Catwoman spliced with the genes of Nurse Ratched. With her dark-rooted blonde locks, insane deliciously skewed kookiness and her dancing eyes, Maggie draws you in with a kind of berserk magnetism.Juxtaposed with the manic energy of Ryan’s breathlessly frantic performance, Peiffer displays Hawksian panache. Rain-soaked, sleep deprived and dressed in her son’s dinosaur t-shirt, she’s charming in the role, but even Michelle can’t approach what Ryan achieves in her effortless act of screwball subversion.As I watched Addicted to Love and One Fine Day again I wondered if, in sixty years, filmmakers will attempt a comedy or two in the style of the 1990s. What would that look like from the perspective of people who aren’t even born yet?Leaving such musing aside, I would definitely recommend this Dionysian double-feature. If you’ve ever been put through the emotional wringer, you should connect with at least one of these two delightful movies.

It’s been and gone!



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