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.
In Addicted to Love, the black, 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 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 Meg’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.
If 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.
So look. I’m obviously not being fair to One Fine Day. It aspires to be an heir to the films of Tracy and Hepburn, but despite covering the same terrain as Addicted to Love, the characters aren’t as smart or as quirky. The formula is equally familiar. Strangers meet in a big city, and share a frisson of attraction, they spend the rest of the movie 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 (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Jack Taylor (George 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.And so on. One Fine Day is a movie you’ll sing along with, because Clooney, Pfeiffer and The Big Apple have never looked better. 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.Counterpoised with the allure of Maggie’s blonde voodoo, Melanie appears positively prosaic, until a soaking in the rain dampens her demure façade. With her authentic accent and washed out hair, Pfeiffer seems as substantial as she is gorgeous, effortlessly providing a breezy brand of haughty insouciance.
“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, I couldn’t help but think how joyously truthful this is.