The Great, Unmade Michelle Pfeiffer Comedy: Mint Juleps in Montauk

New York, 1969. Doctor Jack Sheldrake (George Clooney) is having an extramarital affair with Maggie (Meg Ryan). This might be shocking if he was actually married. In truth, he only tells girls he’s married to avoid commitment.
Believing he’s finally chosen to say with his wife rather than move in with her, Maggie decides to commit suicide, only to be saved by her neighbour, French playwright Anton (Kevin Kline).
When Sheldrake then changes his mind and decides to ask Maggie to marry him, she agrees on one condition – she must meet his first wife.
Enter Miss Olson (Michelle Pfeiffer), Dr. Sheldrake’s assistant nurse who has harboured a secret crush on her boss for years. Convincing her to play the part of his erstwhile wife to placate Maggie only complicates matters all the more.
Screwball comedy lives and dies on its performances and thankfully Clooney, Kline and Ryan make Lawrence Kasdan’s 1997 comedy of errors come to life, with Michelle Pfeiffer moving between them with absolute serenity.
A reimagining of The Apartment, with a setup that could only work in a fictionalised cinematic Utopia, Mint Juleps in Montauk is worth watching, if only for its gorgeous black and white cinematography and its leading ladies.
Meg Ryan may well be the best in show. She has the Greenwich Village flower child down-pat, with those gorgeous, giant expressive eyes doing some amazing heavy-lifting. But I would also urge you to marvel at Michelle, who showed that she was as adept at screwball comedy as she was at romantic classicism.
In a fabulous musical interlude, drunk with adoration (and a brace of bourbon Manhattans) Miss Olsen sashays onto the stage of jazz club The Slipped Disc, to serenade the object of her affection. Much to the chagrin of Maggie.
Watching Michelle casts off her coat and trademark beret, to let her hair down over a fabulous black dress, is an amazing moment, one that speaks volumes to the sensuality of Pfeiffer’s performance.
It won’t exactly come as a surprise to reveal that Michelle ends up with George at fade out time, while Meg and Kevin Kline have to make do with each other. Spoilers aside, I’d still recommend this Clooney-Pfeiffer-Ryan joyride. For, why settle for a sorry second when you can have first class screwball amusement.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “The Great, Unmade Michelle Pfeiffer Comedy: Mint Juleps in Montauk

  1. Paul, this was delightful! Truly inspiring, what a terrific bit of alternate reality cinematic what-ifs you’ve spun out here. I’d pay to see this movie, no question.

    No links to share today because, sadly, I’ve had no time to write lately. The blog might be quiet this week, we’ll see. Keep it up over here, I’m loving the unexpected nature of these posts! Wonderful writing, seriously.

    • Thanks Michael, I always wonder how people are going to take these posts so I appreciate you breaking the ice. I’ve been struggling to make time for writing too, so this post came out of the blue and helped to brighten a miserable Monday.
      I will keep an eye on your site this week, in the meantime I might do another reblog, with your permission. I do love the fact you don’t pfeature Pfeiffer’s pfilms in chronological order. It gives me a pleasant surprise every time you post something.

      • Feel free to reblog away, Paul! Which post are you considering? I’m fine with not knowing and having it be a surprise!

        And thanks for noticing the random order of the Pfeiffer posts. It’s a fun way to do them, plus I’ve been watching her films in random order too. Doing that has reinforced one of my main assertions about her–no matter the film, she’s always exceptional, and dropping in at random points in her career only makes that fact more apparent.

  2. rbtheuncritic

    Well this is fun! I lost count of how many films are referenced here. And I’ll feel foolish if “Just Go With It” isn’t one of them because that means it’s probably a remake of something and Lord knows it wasn’t critically esteemed. But it showcases Jennifer Aniston’s contributions to the screwball comedy landscape. I’ve always been Team Jen – she isn’t the classic beauty that is Meg and Michelle, but without Jen, the comedy landscape in the 2000s would have been so lacking.

    • Just Go With It is indeed a remake, of Cactus Flower the film which inspired this post. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but just imagine Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn and Walter Matthau in a screwball comedy love triangle for the flower power generation.
      Speaking of Jen, modern master of screwball comedy Peter Bogdanovich was shrewd enough to spot her talent when he cast her in She’s Funny that Way. It does make me wonder kind of career Aniston might have had if she’d been a star in the Thirties.

  3. Great post ☺ I love when you mix up the different films of these two wonderful actresses and put them into one. I would love to see where Into the Night would go in one of your mix-ups ☺ Would you ever want to make the Kevin Kline character more like his Fish Called Wanda character? The reason I say that is because it would be interesting to see what he and Clooney say to each other ☺ Anyway, keep up the great work as always ☺

    • Thank you. In my cinematic imagination stars, directors and writers from different eras and different genres can coexist, so why not make the Kevin Kline character more like A Fish Called Wanda‘s Otto. The contrast between him and Clooney would be phenomenal, they could even fight for the affections of Pfeiffer!
      As for Into the Night, I could envisage a movie mash-up of with D.O.A. or Innerspace. Putting Jeff Goldblum, Dennis Quaid, Michelle and Meg together would have been electrifying!

  4. These movie references with such leading ladies is a brilliant concept and I love the charm you bring to your writing. I’m ready to board the train for a Clooney-Pfeiffer-Ryan ride. It has a rather nice tone to it. One ticket to the first class screwball amusement please.

  5. This is even better than the other one you came up with.

  6. I like the nods to the Apartment and what’s that other classic about posing as a fake wife? Sandler did a re-make?

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