Breathless in New York

I’ve often said that if life were a film, I’d want to live in a screwball comedy. Slamming doors, verbal wars, false identities and a cast slowly losing their minds are things that always amuse me, but they’re difficult to find.Do modern actors study screwball comedies to perfect timing and chemistry? If not, they should. The classics did everything better, but a brief period in the 1980s saw a resurgence in zany screwball comedies that make for good Sunday afternoon viewing. Think Innerspace, Married to the Mob and Overboard.There were many attempts at romantic and screwball comedy in the nineties, some more successful than others; in Addicted to Love Meg Ryan attempted to marry both genres in the same film.Michael Hoffman’s One Fine Day had a different kind of styling, delighting in the sights and serendipities of life in New York City. The characters, situations, occupations and predicaments all seeming to belong to the carefree comedies found back in the 40s and 50s.Michelle Pfeiffer was in her element in the role of Melanie, a workaholic Big Apple architect who is sour on the idea of love. Similarly, George Clooney as journalist Jack Taylor brought his full charm to exactly the sort of slick, so charming that he must be insincere role that has become his trademark.The bubbly, screwball antagonism between them is a joy to watch, especially in the scene, set on a city sidewalk, where Jack and Melanie accuse each other of having complexes related to the works of J.M. Barrie.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. Pfeiffer, Ryan and The Big Apple have never looked better and who did haughty Hepburn better than Michelle? When the film was over, I wanted to see her character again in a few years time. Or next week. One Fine Day, the sitcom anyone?Hot on the heels of Michelle’s harassed heroine, Meg Ryan left her Meg Ryan-ness on the set of French Kiss, as she exploded onto the screen like a hybrid of Catwoman and Nurse Ratched. With those gorgeous, giant expressive eyes she’d have looked on Pfeiffer’s Melanie as a blonde extra who was being overpaid.The awful truth is, Meg Ryan had a quality that makes me think you could lift her out of the film and send her in a cinematic time machine: she could be the scatterbrained rich girl in My Man Godfrey, The Lady Eve‘s gold-digging seductress, ditzy dame Fran Kubelik in The Apartment, or any character in a film from the French New Wave.Ultimately Godard sums up her allure better than I ever could: “I don’t think you should feel about a film. You should feel about a woman, not a movie. You can’t kiss a movie.”



Filed under Feature, Retrospective

14 responses to “Breathless in New York

  1. Hey there, great post funnily enough my husband asked me if I’d heard of Addicted to Love recently as the cast was Realweegie heaven – I havent seen it, but feel I know it well due to your great posts. Also thank for reminding me about Innerspace, great movie I love of hers – so keen to see it again soon, thanks for a lovely post on your gals. Gill

  2. Great post ☺ I love your insight on the similarities and differences between Pfeiffer and Ryan. Kudos to that Jean-Luc Godard quote ☺ Speaking of the topic, British film critic Mark Kermode has a video from 2010, where he talks (glowingly) of John Landis’ Into The Night. I tell you this because Michelle Pfeiffer co-stars in it. Keep up the great work as always ☺

    • Thanks for support over the last year or so, I don’t know how or why but after all these years I still find Pfeiffer and Ryan endlessly fascinating. I really appreciate your reading my ramblings.
      Thanks also for the link. I’m aiming to take a trip back to the 80s in the near future by watching After Hours, Into the Night and Something Wild. Three loosely connected films featuring strong-willed, free-spirited women who aren’t afraid to land themselves in risky situations.

  3. I can totally see her as Fran Kubelik! But who would be her Jack Lemmon??? Also–I’m intrigued by your comments on French New Wave. That’s not a genre I’m familiar with, but it sounds like I need to get up to speed 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, it’s always a pleasure to hear from you. So, we’ve got Meg as Fran Kubelik, how about Matthew Broderick or Tom Hanks as Jack Lemmon and Clooney as Fred MacMurray?
      As for French New Wave films, I’m no expert. All I know is I picked up Godard’s Breathless on DVD recently and enjoyed it more than any film I’ve seen in a long time.

      • Yes, I can definitely see Matthew Broderick in that role, but would the chemistry be there? Hmm. Maybe Tom Hanks would have to do it 🙂 As for Breathless, thanks, I will check it out.

  4. Hey, I just stumbled on your site and it’s fantastic! I’ve been undertaking a massive endeavor of late, rewatching the films of Michelle Pfeiffer. I’m writing about a few of them at my blog.
    Love your site, will definitely check back often 🙂

  5. That’s a stunning shot of Meg at the end.

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