I was worried about watching City of Angels again. It’s based on one of my favourite films, Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and I was concerned that an American remake wouldn’t do the original justice. I was wrong.
City of Angels tells the story of a surgeon (Meg Ryan) who questions her belief system soon after losing a patient. In this time of turmoil she gains a friend in the form of Seth (Nicolas Cage) who is an angel.They admire each other from a distance. She knows when he’s there and his presence comforts her. The warmth of his arms cradle her at night, lulling her to sleep.
Cage is unusually endearing here, and Seth is an unusually feminine character. The angel’s naivety extends to intimate matters, and when Meg asks him how ‘it’ feels, she seems more dominant and he more submissive. It’s unusual to see in a Hollywood film, and unusual for the characters that Cage has tended to play.
City of Angels teaches us that love between species is always bound to fail; Seth has to ‘fall’, literally from the top of a half-constructed skyscraper in order to secure a relationship with Maggie, although we might as well just call her Meg Ryan, the woman who can make angels want to become human.
I can’t reveal how City of Angels ends. In some ways, the story doesn’t have an ending. At least not the ending we would hope for. But isn’t that life? Perhaps like Maggie, we’ll find love in the oddest of places, and try as we might, we’ll never understand how or why.
While the film may lack the beauty of Wenders’ original, it is kept admirably uncloying and everyone involved seems sincere about the project. You can’t really ask for more in a Hollywood remake of a European art house film.
The second film of Meg’s three-fer in 1998 was Hurlyburly. Adapted from a stage play and featuring the likes of Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Anna Paquin and Robin Wright, Hurlyburly explores the salacious side of Hollywood, the agents, the unemployed actors and the topless dancers. Women exist in Hurlyburly to be bruised and abused; literally, in Meg Ryan’s case.
Puncturing her girl next door image, Meg plays a promiscuous erotic dancer who gets thrown out of her own moving car. Ryan could have been similarly thrown away in the film; but she more than holds her own. Daring to don the most wondrous of Wonderbras, Hurlyburly‘s Bonnie is another confident, strong and invulnerable character in the ouevre of Meg Ryan. A woman who takes the knocks and keeps going forward, in a world far removed from the New York of You’ve Got Mail and Meg’s third film of the year. More on that story later…