Year 8, Day 245 - 9/1/16 - Movie #2,440
BEFORE: When I started up blogging again at the start of 2016, I was semi-convinced this would be the last year of the project. The likelihood of that has since come and gone, but for a while, when it looked like I'd be wrapping up soon, I thought about timing films on the anniversary of certain actors' deaths, because I'd done a year back in 2010 or 2011 when I timed a lot of films to coincide with actors' births. But that seemed quite morbid to me, so I decided against it very rapidly.
Still, this year seems to be, unfortunately, a very prolific one when it comes to celebrity deaths. Prince, David Bowie, now Gene Wilder... Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Muhammed Ali. George Martin, Kenny Baker, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey. Harper Lee. Elie Wiesel. Garry Marshall. Morley Safer, Anton Yelchin, Chyna, Doris Roberts. George Gaynes, Abe Vigoda and George freakin' Kennedy, for freak's sake. This list is by no means complete, I'm just touching on the VIP's here.
Since Steven Hill is my link tonight, carrying over from "Yentl", I would hate for him to get lost in that shuffle - he passed away on August 23, a little over a week ago. He played D.A. Adam Schiff on NBC's "Law & Order", appearing in 229 episodes (and yet he was only the fourth-most prolific actor on that show). He also appeared on the old "Mission: Impossible" TV show, and in the films "Brighton Beach Memoirs", "Billy Bathgate", "White Palace" and "The Firm".
THE PLOT: Rachel is a food writer at a New York magazine who meets Washington columnist Mark at a wedding and ends up falling in love with him despite her reservations about marriage. They buy a house, have a daughter, and Rachel thinks they are living happily ever after.
AFTER: In any other year, this film would have landed squarely in the February romance chain - but as I stated, I desperately needed some link out of "Yentl", and this possibility popped up only recently. I got this film only about two months ago, to pair on a DVD with tomorrow's film. And THAT film presents a solid link to "Captain America: Civil War". I've got nearly nothing to watch next February, except TCM just ran a bunch of Dean Martin and/or Frank Sinatra films that seem to fit the romance category - "Some Came Running", "Who Was That Lady?", "Bells Are Ringing" and "Marriage on the Rocks". So I shouldn't have worried, there will always be more films to watch about love, with all its ups and downs.
And speaking of marriages on the rocks, this film is based on the real-life marriage of Nora Ephron and Carl Bernstein - of "All the President's Men"/Watergate fame. There's no more satisfying revenge, apparently, than writing a thinly-veiled movie that proves that a marriage's break-up is all the other person's fault. Sure, I get that some men cheat, as do some women, but there's often a reason, and thus I think it's too simple to state that any break-up is solely one person's fault. There's always another possible perspective. Perhaps I'm just projecting, because when I got divorced, people tried to make me feel better by telling me that the break-up was all my ex-wife's fault, and that felt like a cop-out to me.
At the start, it seems like Rachel is quite unsure of the marriage - she makes the wedding guests wait a LONG time before she enters the ceremony. OK, so maybe she has her doubts, but is it OK to make the guests wait for hours, while she makes up her mind? I mean, how self-entitled can one person be? Couldn't she have expressed her fears and doubts at some time before the day of the ceremony itself? No, no, everyone talk among yourselves while I decide if I want to get married. Not cool.
There's a line I love from another Nora Ephron-written film, "When Harry Met Sally" - when Sally asks Harry if she's "high-maintenance or low-maintenance", Harry says, "You're the worst kind - you're high-maintenance, but you THINK you're low-maintenance". Rachel here is definitely cut from the same cloth - she's ultra-high maintenance, but refuses to admit it.
But anyway, the film is at least notable for having the first screen appearance by Kevin Spacey, and featuring Nicholson singing "My Boy Bill" from "Carousel" for what feels to be much too long of a time. I guess they blew their song budget on that, plus one Carly Simon song that's played over and over again throughout the whole movie. After that, the only song they could afford was "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", and if you're like me, you'll have a devil of a time getting that children's song out of your head when the film is over. Geez, how do parents stand singing such terrible song to their children?
Oddly, there was almost a different way that this film could have linked from "Yentl" - Mandy Patinkin was originally cast in the lead male role, but apparently had no chemistry with Meryl Streep, and was replaced by Nicholson after just one day of shooting. I guess that's the message of the film - if it's not working out, it's best to just cut your losses, pack your bags and head out.
But since the husband was the one having an affair, shouldn't HE be the one that should leave the house that they bought and renovated together? I kind of felt that any feminist statement made by Rachel leaving a cheating husband could be a bit stronger if she got to keep the house - packing up and heading back to New York, with a child (or two) without a real plan about where to live doesn't seem like a wise move. Why not stay in the house with the kids and kick his ass out?
Also starring Meryl Streep (last seen in "Prime"), Jack Nicholson (last seen in "Goin' South"), Jeff Daniels (last seen in "The Martian"), Stockard Channing (last seen in "Practical Magic"), Richard Masur (last seen in "The Thing"), Catherine O'Hara (last seen in "Betsy's Wedding"), Milos Forman, Maureen Stapleton (last seen in "Plaza Suite"), Anna Maria Horsford, Mamie Gummer, Ron McLarty, Karen Akers, Joanna Gleason (last seen in "The Wedding Planner"), Mercedes Ruehl (last seen in "The Warriors"), Kenneth Welsh, with cameos from Kevin Spacey (last seen in "Horrible Bosses 2"), John Wood, Yakov Smirnoff, Dana Ivey (last seen in "Sabrina"), John Rothman (last seen in "The Hoax"), Natasha Lyonne (last seen in "Slums of Beverly Hills"), Tony Shalhoub (last seen in "Gattaca").
RATING: 4 out of 10 dinner parties