Friday, March 18, 2011

12 Step Gab

Wise: Hi there, Werth!

Werth: Please, stop typing so loud.

Wise: Did someone celebrate his faux Irish heritage too much last night?

Werth: There’s some Irish on my Grandfather’s side... and yes.

Wise: You know the best cure for a hangover?

Werth: Four Tylenol washed down with a fifth of Cointreau?

Wise: Alcoholic Movies!

Werth: Ah! The hair of the Hollywood that bit you.

Wise: Indeed. When I’m getting my fix of over-imbibing on the silver screen, I like to serve it dry with a twist of old Hollywood glamor and a splash of 80’s bitters.  

Werth: Sounds like you’re going to dunk Joan Collins’ “Dynasty” shoulder pads into a mug of Old Grandad. 

Wise: Close, but actually I’m thinking of Postcards from the Edge, Mike Nichols’ film version of Carrie Fisher’s thinly veiled roman a clef about the excesses of an actress as she struggles with addictions, a turbulent love life, and the unending and unhelpful razzmatazz of her screen legend mother.  

Werth: Razzmatazz that will drive a body straight to Jenny Craig.

Wise: Meryl Streep plays Suzanne Vale, an effervescent actress with a few hits under her belt and a few bumps up her nose.  After a stint in rehab, and before the insurance company will allow her to start her next film, she moves in with her mother and is forced to negotiate both her recovery and her complicated maternal relationship.  Of course that relationship is even more difficult when your mother is played by Shirley MacLaine in Debbie Reynolds drag.  

Werth: That would make a great Halloween costume. 

Wise: Postcards isn’t a perfect film, but it is loaded with great performances and some genuinely funny jokes made at Hollywood’s expense.  Annette Bening, Richard Dreyfuss, and Gene Hackman all have small but pivotal roles, and their presence gives the movie a kind of insider-y feel.  It’s fun to watch the fictional world of movie-making bleed into Suzanne’s real life, just like it’s fun to play a guessing game of how much of the story is based on Carrie Fisher’s own experiences.  

Werth: I liked seeing Conrad Bain get some post-“Diff’rent Strokes” work.

Wise: Both Streep and MacLaine get to sing a couple of numbers which adds extra zest to the affair.  Plus Dennis Quaid does a lot of shirtless smirking while causing a lot of trouble for Suzanne.  He’s at the height of the golden, good-time boy era of his career and he cheerfully lures Suzanne into and out of the bedroom before eventually dumping her at the emergency room after an overdose.  

Werth: I find that the best way to cure a Dennis Quaid overdose is to hit rock-bottom with the drunkenly delightful Dudley Moore in 1981’s Arthur.

Wise: Not to be confused with the Russell Brand re-make that comes out April 8th.

Werth: Of course not. Arthur is a wealthy, lovable, ne’er-do-well lush who spends his nights at the Plaza eating dinner with lycra-clad street walkers and his days waking up in a bedroom with a trainset.
After taking a bath wearing a top hat, he can be found traipsing through New York department stores with his British-ly acerbic manservant, Hobson, played with hilarious elan by the Oscar-winning John Gielgud.

Wise: Isn’t that how you spend your days?

Werth: Just Saturdays. Arthur’s boozey life gets a wake-up call from his father, however, when he is told he has to marry heiress Susan Johnson (a pre- L.A. Law Jill Eikenberry) or be written off without a sou. 

Wise: There are worse things than marrying an heiress. 

Werth: Only Arthur has just found love in the Bergdorf’s tie department care of sassy shoplifter, Liza Minnelli.

Wise: What’s a drunk millionaire to do?

 Werth: What really makes this movie work is its total devotion to its lead character. Dudley Moore waltzes effortlessly across the screen as a winsome drunk. His pathetic-ness is charming, his social faux pas endearing, his care and love for Hobson heart-touching. The film doesn’t make us pity Arthur’s drunkenness. In fact, we wait anxiously for his next bender. But it also doesn’t glorify his drinking problem. As grand a caricature as Arthur is, he feels utterly human. And with spot-on supporting performances from Gielgud, Minnelli, Barney Martin and Geraldine Fizgerald, Arthur’s life doesn’t make us want to run to an AA Meeting, but to the arms of someone we love.

Wise: It sounds like you got caught between the moon and New York City.

Werth: And if any theme song could give you a hangover, Christopher Cross’ could.

Wise: No worries. You and our faithful readers can just put an ice pack on your heads and tune in next week for more intoxicating Film Gab!

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