Love Amongst the Sleep Deprived

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 screwballs 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.In Addicted to Love, the dark, nocturnal streets of Greenwich Village provide a beautiful and slightly sinister backdrop to a dark tale of jilted lovers. Photographer Maggie (Meg Ryan) and astronomer Sam (Matthew Broderick) cross paths when they discover that their former flames are now living with each other. Sam hopes to win back the affections of childhood sweetheart Linda (Kelly Preston), but Maggie’s only intention is to see former lover Anton (Tcheky Karyo) “in pain, hopeless and finished off.“Billed as “a comedy about lost loves” you really have to dig beneath the surface of this film to find any layer of sweetness and silver linings. Cinematographer Maurizio Benazzo constantly surprises with his careful shot compositions, and director Griffin Dunne takes a romantic formula, turns it inside out, and adds a wild card in the character of Maggie. Meg Ryan fulfilling the classic 1930’s role of the sexy girl who spells big trouble for Broderick’s milquetoast.Meg trades in her usual sparkle, to play this abrasive, anti-romantic heroine and she cuts an indelible figure, resplendent in aviator goggles, feather boa and tie dye dress. Addicted To Love is all about Maggie and Ryan’s work here is inspired. Her clothes, makeup and hair are brought to a perfect pitch, but her ultimate embellishment is an unforgettable husky voice, pitched somewhere between a rasping ship’s foghorn and a bewitching siren’s song.
A Kiss CapturedIf you haven’t seen Addicted To Love may I suggest you take a look at it? At first glance it might resemble When Maggie Met Sam in Soho via Seattle, but it did bring some originality to what had become a very predictable genre. One Fine Day plays like a low-rent version of The Awful Truth in comparison.

One Fine DaySo. I’m obviously not being fair to One Fine Day. Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney, reincarnations if there ever were of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, are charming as strangers who cross paths one rainy day, and fall into instant dislike. They spend the rest of the film denying their feelings, until in accordance with the bylaws of the Hollywood Cliché Code, love finally conquers all.Diametrically opposite Maggie and Sam in their “bohemian hell hole,” the bustling Upper East Side of New York is home to Melanie Parker (Pfeiffer) and Jack Taylor (Clooney), two working single parents who meet-cute when their children miss a school field trip.Jack is a conceited New York Daily News columnist, Melanie is a career-centred architect. They’re both late for work, have their bosses breathing down their necks, and are in dire need of somebody to take care of their children. So despite their mutual antagonism, they reluctantly agree to join forces.Debonair Clooney, Heavenly PfeifferAnd so on. One Fine Day is a movie you’ll sing along with, because Michelle Pfeiffer and The Big Apple have never looked finer. From the Circle Line to Central Park to Radio City Music Hall, a wonderful lustre envelopes this film. Director Michael Hoffman revels in the city, and James Newton Howard’s score summons up the strains of the great musical poets of Manhattan’s past.Juxtaposed with the spell of Meg Ryan’s blonde voodoo, Michelle is positively pulchritudinous. Complete with dinosaur t-shirt and washed out hair, Pfeiffer is the definitive star of the film, as she effortlessly conjures up the breezy insouciance so necessary for a screwball comedy to succeed.The history of cinema is the history of boys photographing girls.” Or so Jean-Luc Godard has been quoted as saying. Watching the haughty, heavenly Melanie Parker and potent, pouting Maggie working their magic, it’s hard to disagree.


Filed under Review

Flesh and Bone (1993)

Flesh and Bone is a film that gets under my skin. A dark tale of fate, guilt, love and family. This doom-laden sojourn into Southern Gothic is beautiful, moving and macabre, and it passed almost unseen on its theatrical release in 1993.Dennis Quaid plays Arlis Sweeney, a vending machine stocker who travels the desolate plains of West Texas haunted by a childhood memory. One bad night, when his father Roy’s (James Caan) abortive burglary culminated in the murder of a family, leaving a crying infant as the only survivor.The secret Arlis has borne for thirty years is etched in his face, as he stoically avoids any emotional attachments; visiting the same towns, eating the same food, sleeping in the same beds and then starting all over again.His obsessive routine is disrupted however, when he crosses paths with Kay Davies (Meg Ryan), a feisty young woman who’s running from a broken marriage. Kay joins him on the road and they soon become intimate, but just as they’re on the cusp of a future together, the sudden reappearance of a figure from his past, and a chance discovery, lead Arlis to a devastating realisation.Flesh and Bone is a poetic vision of loneliness and isolation, The arid West Texas countryside rolls by, but these characters are running out of road. Every turn is taking them to the same place, a destination where lives turn on a pivot of fate and destiny. It’s the kind of film where portentous dialogue announces, “Storm’s coming, I can feel it.”
Dennis and Meg have a delightfully casual interplay, but they are also able to express so much with just facial expressions. Meg in particular nails the insecurity and hesitancy under Kay’s brash, invulnerable front. Ryan’s work is both sultry and superb, culminating in the scene where she walks through the miles of empty fields surrounding her abandoned childhood home.It’s a truly stunning sequence, enhanced by Thomas Newman’s music, the emptiness of the landscape echoing the emptiness inside her character. But then all the characters in Flesh and Bone are empty; they’re all searching for something without knowing, or understanding what. They move simply because they find it impossible to stay still; like the blood coursing through their veins.


Filed under Retrospective