The Great Unmade Michelle Pfeiffer Screwball Comedy: Two in Play (1995)

Two in Play arrived in the midst of a career slump for Michelle Pfeiffer. A string of poorly received vanity projects causing her to return to crowd-pleasing comedy, headlining a Coen brother’s film based on a Donald Westlake novel. Unfortunately for Pfeiffer, all the talk surrounding the film’s release was of her co-stars George Clooney and Meg Ryan, who fell into real-life love on the set.In Two in Play, Clooney plays a duplicitous art dealer named Al Avelino, whose gallery has fallen on hard times. With the wolves circling, he’s reduced to playing cons on rich widows. One such con lands him in the clutches of Rita Bettencourt (Meg Ryan), a Manhattan socialite who is the muse of notorious, ponytailed mobster Gino Felino (Joe Pesci). It’s Al’s bad luck to find the insanely jealous Felino in-situ when he calls on Rita one day. Seeing through Al’s caper the Don orders his goons to whack the fraudster. Al runs for his life, and is rescued in the nick of time by an angel. It’s Rita, in a white Rolls Royce convertible. The two hit it off instantly, and are soon making extravagant plans for their no exit nuptials.Al is happy to marry Rita, who is sexy and ridiculously rich, until he meets her more beautiful, less ostentatious sister Liz (Michelle Pfeiffer). Liz wins his love in a heartbeat. Forced to play both sides of the ball with these splendorous siblings, Al, in the best traditions of screwball comedy, dons black rimmed glasses, adopts a ludicrous accent and invents a twin brother, Sal, who has supposedly jetted into The Big Apple from Italy, to work his magic on lonely, lovelorn Liz.Al/Sal’s situation becomes more perilous as the wedding day gets closer, his liaisons with Liz arouse the suspicions of Rita, and the threats from Pesci and his heavies grow more and more menacing. The elements are all here for a quintessential screwball comedy, but sadly the set-up is too ridiculous to be credible. Liz, the character played by Pfeiffer, is obviously more intelligent than the sister played by Meg, and it is simply not possible to believe she would be taken in by the deception. Clooney and the Coens imitate their betters and fail.Even though Michelle Pfeiffer was given top billing, Two in Play actually stands as a true Meg Ryan movie. Meg is just so much fun to watch here, as she swaggers into the frame with her garish lipstick, leopard print outfits and bodacious Betty Boop voice. By comparison, Pfeiffer is far more understated. After a jaw-dropping entrance, she’s repeatedly reduced to playing the straight man to Ryan. All of Two in Playā€™s best moments revolve around Meg, as she gives a classic screwball comedy performance deserving of a much finer film.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “The Great Unmade Michelle Pfeiffer Screwball Comedy: Two in Play (1995)

  1. OMG this is hilarious as another person said on here šŸ™‚ The story behind this fake film and your introduction to it would have been a comedic gem of sketch comedy back in the 90’s since that was when Pfeiffer and Ryan were big šŸ™‚ I do not know what sketch comedy shows you Brits had in the UK back then, but here in the US, it was Saturday Night Live and the now defunct MAD TV. I am aware of a satirical puppet television series you brits had back in the day entitled Spitting Image, which is reportedly returning this October on Brit Box (the name of the channel I believe). Anyway, keep up the great work as always šŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Waddya mean Iā€™m funny?” “Funny how? How am I funny?” “You wanna turn my movie into a comedy sketch?” “Is that what you’re saying?”
      I’m sorry John, I couldn’t help turning all Joe Pesci there. It was your recent comment that inspired this post, so I’m relieved you enjoyed it. Thanks for your support as always.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If only… This does sound a fun plot for a movie and beautifully cast as always. Joe Pesci and his ponytail and double George Clooney… With your gals. Fantastic photos too. These posts are great keep them coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you picked up on Pesci and his ponytail, the thought of Joe and George Clooney as antagonists really tickled me. Thanks for you kind words about the photos too. I’m sure you’ve probably seen them before, I just thought they seemed a good fit for this post. I’m happy you approve.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This post is so good for a second I thought I’d missed a Clooney movie (which is quite impossible!), it all seemed so plausible! I’ve been thinking about Intolerable Cruelty all the time, not so far from your invention… Great job indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

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