Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

27 April 2006

Blog-a-thon: the Fabulous Michelle Pfeiffer

In celebration of the birthday of the ultimate screen siren and one of the most beautiful women in the world, Nathaniel R over at The Film Experience has called for a blog-a-thon. So today, this blog is devoted to Nathaniel's obsession: Michelle Pfeiffer. In honor of the day, I rented two Michelle Pfeiffer movies that I, somehow, had never caught.

The Witches of Eastwick is a wicked, delicious comedy about three women who, unbeknownst to them, possess significant magical powers. One (drunken) evening, the three women (Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher & Susan Sarandon) conjure up the man of their dreams and lo and behold, who arrives in town but the man of their dreams in the person of Jack Nicholson (crazily over-the-top and sporting a bizarre-looking ponytail--it was 1987). Hilarity ensues. Jack seduces each of the women in turn and the four begin to form a sort of insane family. Meanwhile, the townspeople begin to talk, as townspeople do, and they find plenty of grist for their rumor mill in the ménage à quatre in the mansion on the hill. The whole film is strange, to be honest. It possesses a cartoonish mood in which it rather enjoys reveling, but when it tries to shake the mood, it doesn't quite succeed... or maybe director George Miller wasn't trying to shake the mood at all and it is I who am confused. There is a horrifying scene where the witches cause the leader of the gossip queens in town—a psycho-hose-beast religious wacko played by Veronica Cartwright—to vomit up cherry pits. I love the concept behind the scene (just typing it makes me laugh), but the director doesn't have enough of a grasp on the audience for it to work. He hasn't spelled out what's funny and what isn't and so we don't know whether to laugh or cringe. It's okay if it's both, but not okay if he hasn't given us permission to laugh, and I don't think he has.

Pfeiffer is great in The Witches of Eastwick: the perfect innocent who blossoms into a powerful woman and courageous lover before our eyes. Susan Sarandon performs a similar character shift in the film, but with Pfeiffer it feels honest and believable, never cartoonish or ridiculous but totally natural: as though you never noticed that side of her before, but it must have been there all the time.

Last night's selection was Tequila Sunrise, written and directed by the legendary Robert Towne and starring La Pfeiffer, Mel Gibson (while he was still very hot), Kurt Russell and Raul Julia. It's a talky crime thriller of the kind that were popular in the late 1980's (drug-running, friendship, femmes fatale: you get the idea.) Mel & Kurt are old friends from high school, and have kept in touch for years, but Mel is a retired drug dealer and Kurt was just promoted to head of the narcotics division of the City of Los Angeles. Enter Michelle Pfeiffer: and the entrance is cool, too. We don't see her at first. Mel is busy doing some drug-related business in a hotel and then running away from the cops, but he stops to confirm his reservation at a restaurant and on the other line of the pay phone, we hear the voice of Michelle Pfeiffer. And she's a total pro. There's no way not to totally lust after Mel Gibson in this movie, and he's upstanding and honest and lovable, but Pfeiffer has all of the plum lines. At one point she says to Kurt Russell: "You need some chapstick or lip gloss or something? Because your lips keep getting stuck on your teeth. Or is that your idea of a smile?" Totally badass. Her big scene in Act III of the film is great too, but I won't spoil that, because I think Tequila Sunrise is really worth watching. In addition to Pfeiffer and Gibson looking gorgeous, Conrad Hall's cinematography is great and Towne's script—while it isn't Chinatown—contains some real zingers.

The main problem with the film is that it isn't hardcore enough, really. It's too PG-13 and not enough real punch: a good thriller should scare me a little more than this one did.

For a real Pfeiffer-pfest, rent Married to the Mob or The Fabulous Baker Boys or Dangerous Liaisons or my most recent personal favorite What Lies Beneath. It's all Pfeiffer, all the time.

Michelle Pfeiffer turns forty-eight on Saturday and she will finally be returning to a theatre near you in late July after a four year absence. So spend the day with La Pfeiffer, head over to Blog-a-thon HQ (i.e. Nathaniel's blog) and visit some of the other (30+) blogs participating in today's festivities.