Sometimes you have to admit it's
a pretty good flick, even if you don't like it. This
odd movie is such an example for me. It's more like
several movies, and it's one of those cases of an OK
movie that I really don't like at all.
Jeff Daniels plays a young businessman who has
virtually no life outside of work. He's the kind of
guy who puts on a suit when he gets out of the
shower after a ballgame, the kind of guy who irons
his underwear and jammies.
Melanie Griffith plays the kind of girl who doesn't
even wear underwear and jammies.
Somehow they hook up in Act 1. Melanie can read
Daniels perfectly, but he insists he's different
from the man she sees. "I'm a rebel" he claims. Why
does he say that? Because he went with munis when
everyone else was playing the stock market. Whoo,
doggies. Move aside Sonny Barger and Abbie Hoffman -
here's a boy who's really willing to live life on
the edge. Melanie's character really is wild, and
she decides to have some fun with the
Melanie decides to goof on him a bit. They get a
room, she handcuffs him, tears up some of his Brooks
Brothers clothing, screws him senseless, calls his
boss and gets him on the line while Jeff is still
manacled - that kind of stuff. At this point, the
film is an edgy comedy. We are never sure if Melanie
is cuffing him so she can take his wallet, or if she
really intends to screw him for pleasure. We don't
know if Melanie likes him and wants to help him
loosen his tie a bit, or if she just hates his kind
of smug middle-class suburban complacency and is
ridiculing him. The film does a good job of
manipulating our emotions, because we are just as
relieved as Daniels that she turns out to be
harmless and has a sincere person beneath her
Then the film takes a very sweet left turn in Act 2.
Jeff agrees to pretend to be Melanie's husband for a
visit to her mother and her 10th year high school
reunion. During this point of the movie, it is an
edgeless romantic comedy, they seem to be falling in
love, and the reunion itself is pure silliness -
they meet one of his work colleagues, they can't
keep their unrehearsed stories straight, etc.
Then the film becomes a
completely different film altogether in Act 3. Ray
Liotta shows up at the 10th-year reunion, making his
screen debut as Melanie's real husband, a violent
creep just out of the big house. Liotta provides his
familiar blend of soft-spoken regular guy and
violent low-rent thug, an act he had already
perfected years before Goodfellas. Actually,
although he almost always plays sociopaths, I think
Liotta would do fine in nice guy roles, but he can't
seem to escape his stereotyping. Once Liotta shows
up, there is no more comedy. Liotta beats the hell
out of Daniels, terrorizes Melanie, gets them
involved in a c-store robbery, and the film
eventually ends in grisly, bloody mayhem.
What the .... ?
I'm not saying that the second half of the movie
isn't good, mind you. It's just that you're lulled
into thinking it will be a sweet-natured little
romantic comedy, a "When Harry met Sally" kind of
thing, and then suddenly you're watching "Silence of
the Lambs". To get the general idea, imagine if
Harry and Sally had suddenly met Hannibal Lecter
halfway through the film, and there were no more
laughs or light moments as they had to deal with the
very real possibility of their own extermination.
I'm pretty sure that wasn't a miscalculation on the
part of director Jonathan Demme (who actually
directed Silence of the Lambs as well). I think the
whole point of the tone switch was to get the
audience emotionally involved, to get even more
worked up against the Liotta character, because he
is destroying a serenity which exists not only in
the characters, but in the audience as well. "Hey. I
was just getting into the love story, and the comedy
.....". When Liotta shatters our mood, we get a
strong reinforcement of the way he shatters the mood
of the characters.
Anyway, I find the all that irritating, and have
disliked the movie since it first came out, but I
have to admit that the film works on its own level.
It meant to manipulate my emotions, and it succeeded
in producing a visceral reaction. I see that, and
have to tip my cap. Unfortunately, I don't like the
kind of film it became in the second half, and I
wish I had used those hours to watch something else.