Dual Review: Wolf (1994)

Together for the first (and maybe only) time—guest writer Michael C. and host Paul S. celebrate the work of Michelle Pfeiffer in Wolf.

Michael C: Mike Nichols’ Wolf (1994) utilizes classic werewolf tropes to segue into a smart and slyly funny exploration of the crisis of masculinity. Jack Nicholson’s character Will, in the midst of a midlife crisis, begins to feel like a much younger man again after he’s bitten by a wolf. Plus he meets a much younger woman played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who becomes the symbol of all that’s missing from his life, and so of course he must have her. The film flummoxed audiences and critics in ’94, yet it holds up magnificently today. It’s beautifully filmed, with a memorably vivid Ennio Morricone score, and terrific performances by all involved, especially from Pfeiffer.Paul S: After The Witches Of Eastwick I couldn’t wait to see the reunion of Michelle and Jack Nicholson. Watching Wolf again for this post with an emphasis on Pfeiffer’s Laura Alden, I was struck by the soulful feel of depth and intelligence in Michelle’s allure. There’s something in Pfeiffer’s face, in her eyes, that I just can’t ignore. I’m sounding incoherent; Michael C, word it for me.Michael C: Pfeiffer has a lot of fun being the object of Nicholson’s affection here. She makes acting choices that help reinforce the film’s harsh critique of the male ego. Throughout, Nicholson’s Will and James Spader’s Stewart (in a howlingly delicious turn as a creep co-worker at Nicholson’s publishing firm) are always mansplaining everything to Laura. Pfeiffer’s reaction shots provide many of the film’s most delightful moments—bemusement, disdain, and exasperation are just a few of the emotions she conveys with a piercing glance or a subtle lift of an eyebrow. Laura is the sort of role Pfeiffer’s always excelled at playing, a woman primarily defined (by men) for her beauty, yet one who is also fierce, intelligent, and wields a whip-smart sense of humor.Paul S: I do love your evaluation of Michelle’s character here. Her “whip-smart sense of humor” is my favourite part of the film, particularly in the scene in a hotel room where Laura springs Will from handcuffs using a paperclip, a trick from her wayward youth. Her response when Will asks if she’s sure she wants to get involved with a guy who may be a werewolf is classic Pfeiffer: “You mean instead of the gaiety and warmth of my normal life?” Laura has a distinctive attitude in this film that seems like it could only have come from Michelle.Michael C: That the film’s climactic—and entertainingly ludicrous—battle between Nicholson’s and Spader’s wolfmen ends with Pfeiffer killing Spader in a hail of bullets is fitting. Then, the film’s final scene is a zooming closeup of Pfeiffer’s intensely expressive eyes, signaling a shift in the film’s male-female power dynamic.Paul S: Fabulous. I think you have captured the essence of what happened in that one-two punch of scenes far better than I ever could. Oh, the final shot of Pfeiffer in Wolf‘ is absolutely stunning… The most seductive stare ever?Michael: Laura’s put up with the men’s nonsense for two hours, and now it’s her turn to be the predator. Ultimately, the film offers a prescient commentary on the resilience of women in a patriarchal society. In a film that often straddles the line between high and low brow, Pfeiffer makes it all work with a finely drawn and nuanced performance that resonates more with each viewing.

 

23 Comments

Filed under Dual review, Guest Post

23 responses to “Dual Review: Wolf (1994)

  1. She really was at the top of her game and beauty. I liked her in this a lot. I’d like to see it again. I remember thinking it was well made and entertaining.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the creativity of this post, the back and forth. Fun!

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  3. What a great post! Thoroughly enjoy the “dialog” you have going.
    But…I’ve realised how overdue I am to give this another watch…I saw it last when it came out on the big screen.
    Have a wonderful week ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post 🙂 You and Michael C did a wonderful job covering everything about this film. I will be honest that I am sadly not a fan of this movie – for a great werewolf film see George Waggner’s The Wolf Man, John Landis An American Werewolf in London and Michael Wadleigh’s Wolfen. For a very good werewolf film see Joe Dante’s The Howling and Larry Cohen’s Full Moon High. Wolf is just so-so. Having said that, the chemistry between Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic and make up the sum of it’s parts (the ending that you and Michael so eloquently state); along with Rick Baker’s werewolf effects. Nevertheless, I loved the conversation you both struck up and you should plan on doing it more often 🙂 In the future, you should try doing one together on Into the Night like you both did for Wolf 🙂 Anyway, you and Michael keep up the great work as always 🙂

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    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts John, you certainly brightened up a gloomy Monday morning. I value your opinion of Wolf, and you know I might follow up on couple of your favourite werewolf films and watch American Werewolf in London and The Howling during Halloween.
      I am glad you enjoyed this post. It’s great to feature Michael’s writing. He’s one of the most sincere, insightful and passionate Pfeiffer pfans. Hopefully there will be more collaborations to come in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul! I love this! I’m over the moon—ya know, the moon Jack keeps howling at during this film? That one. Seriously though, I love this so much. Let’s do it again! I’d love to do one at my blog. Maybe I can pick through some of your work here and select one to do the dueling commentary on? We have a mutual friend, Gill, so maybe I’ll send her my email to forward to you. That way we could plan some stuff (when we find time, of course) over email and not have to rely only on our comments sections. I really do love this post. Thank you so much for sharing my words on a film and a performance I hold very dear to my heart. You said it best here, “Laura has a distinctive attitude in this film that seems like it could only have come from Michelle.” That’s why I love Laura so much. The character and the performance are such a perfect distillation of everything you and I love about La Pfeiffer.

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    • Now I’m over the moon that you’re over the moon. I did this post on the spur of the moment, not knowing what response I’d get, so I’m gratified that you (and others) enjoyed what I was trying to do with your review. I was hoping you’d consider doing something similar over at your blog. Have a look through my posts and if you do find something suitable for a dueling commentary feel free. I’d be humbled to share a post with you.
      By the way there is an email address attached to your comments here. I’ll send you a message to verify it’s the right one, then we can keep in touch. Thanks for your pfriendship!

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      • Michael

        I will gladly choose something from your exceptional vault of Michelle and Meg articles! I’ll let you know when I have something selected. I look forward to doing this dueling commentary more often! And I look forward to hearing from you via email. Your pfriendship is one of those great, unexpected highlights of doing this writing thing on the internet.

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  6. BTW Paul, Here are those two links again (courtesy of my friend Yaseen) regarding the unfilmed Catwoman film – the first was the script and the other is the story on why it did not get made 🙂

    http://www.scifiscripts.com/scripts/catwoman.txt

    https://www.denofgeek.com/movies/catwoman/36451/whatever-happened-to-tim-burtons-catwoman-movie

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    • I do appreciate you sharing these links again John. A Catwoman film would have been a dream come true for all Pfeiffer pfans.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yaseen Fawzi

        I know, right? John and I have been discussing it for a while; in fact, I’d like to see you do a post about it. Got any ideas about casting or scene analysis in mind?

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        • Welcome Yaseen, thanks for the links and your comment. I will definitely do a post on the Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman film when I’ve had chance to study the script properly. I’ve already got a few casting ideas in mind. Watch this space.

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  7. Couldn’t think of a better double act to tribute Michelle. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Paul S, didn’t you just recently post a Batman Returns review with Michael C. or was I just daydreaming? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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