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"Picking Up The Pieces" (2000)

Picking Up The Pieces was reviewed by Scoopy last week, and he was completely right about this one. From Alfonso Arau, director of Like Water for Chocolate and several other films, this is his favorite genre -- non-politically correct comedy. Those who wear their religion on their short sleeves should avoid this one, but it is a rare treat for the rest of us. While somewhat irreverent (a priest and a prostitute nearly have sex in a confessional) it also talks about the relationships between faith and despair, and how willing we are to find salvation in the oddest of places.

The all-star cast, under Arau's direction, lit up the screen with memorable characters, and the look and feel of the film was much like a classic painting -- 180 degrees removed from a dusty western. Woody Allen plays a butcher who hacks his unfaithful wife into 7 pieces, and hides the pieces, except her hand, which falls in the road. The fingers are positioned into the universal sign of the bird. A blind woman trips over the hand, and her sight is restored. The hand immediately is enshrined in the local church, where an increasing number of miracles are attributed to it.

IMDB readers have it at 5.2, despite Scoopy's and my votes. There are no professional reviews. There are several comments at IMDB, but don't believe everything you read in them. The script was not written by Woody Allen under a pseudonym, and Woody didn't direct. As a matter of fact, Woody was seeking projects with other directors to break out of the box he had placed himself in. This was a pure delight, despite, or maybe because of, being un-PC.

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  • Maria Grazia Cuncinotta (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
  • Sharon Stone (1, 2, 3)
  • Unknown (1, 2)
  • Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

    Talk about havin' a year. Lou Gehrig had 1927, the Dolphins had 1972, Spielberg had 1993 ...

    ... Tom Cruise had 1983.

    In the year when he turned 21, Tom had four movies come out together, three of them pretty successful. The first was Curtis Hanson's "Losin' It", about a road trip to Tijuana. Although Hanson would later become quite an accomplished director (L.A. Confidential), this was an early effort, and the only real weak entry among the four.

    Cruise followed that immediately with Coppola's The Outsiders, then Risky Business, then All The Right Moves. A star was born. And the lucky stiff also got to fondle the naked frames of Lea Thompson and Rebecca de Mornay in the same year.

    The fearsome foursome

    Along with Better off Dead, Revenge of the Nerds, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Risky Business is one of the best of the school's-out youth-oriented risque comedy-fantasies that were popular two decades ago, and were briefly revived by American Pie last summer. Those four movies came out in consecutive years (Risky 1983, Nerds 1984, Dead 1985, Bueller 1986), and three of the young stars are the same age (Cruise, Broderick and Edwards were all born in 1962, Cusack is younger). All four of the young stars have continued to perform in the spotlight, although Edwards seems to have left comedy behind him.

    In this film, Cruise plays an aspiring Ivy Leaguer whose upper middle class parents go away on a vacation without him, leaving him master of the domain.

    How's that for the usual set-up? Kid is home alone. His entire future, especially college admission, hinges on his behavior during this period. Will he do everything right and make it in life, or will he screw up?

    The typical set-up continues. Cruise's best friend is Curtis Armstrong (he's the sidekick to three of the Fearsome Foursome, somehow having avoided Bueller), and Curtis advises Cruise to say "what the fuck" and do what a teen should do when left alone in his rich parents' house - drink the booze, break the fragile items, wreck dad's Porsche, and call in some hookers. In short, become a man. Cruise gives in to his friend's seductive argument, and ends up sleeping with a very expensive call girl whom he cannot afford, which is where his big troubles begin.

    Well, to make a long story short, Cruise ends up managing an entire stable of hookers out of his parents' house.

    Because this is a masturbatory fantasy, he doesn't end up getting beaten to a pulp by brutal pimps, or arrested, or disowned by his parents. In fact, he gets the Princeton Admissions Officer laid, and the guy is really impressed with the bordello set-up, and decides that Cruise is an ideal candidate for business school. And, on top of it all, Tommy gets the house and car fixed, and falls in love with the prettiest young hooker in existence.

    The movie doesn't have any real comic bite, but it's a pleasant 99 minutes, and Cruise's lip-synching in his underpants and socks has now become one of the most common scenes to appear in those "memorable screen moments" reels. Even Homer Simpson parodied it.

    Of the fearsome foursome of films listed here, Bueller is considered a generational classic and is rated 7.6 at IMDb, Better off Dead has become a surreal cult favorite and scores a solid 7.1, Risky Business is 6.8, and Revenge of the Nerds pulls up the rear at 5.9.

    I'd say that Risky Business is the best of the four in the imagery of filmmaking, and is a good satire of the values of American suburban materialism. It was a mammoth hit, and gave us several memorable screen moments, but its popularity hasn't held up as well as some of the others mentioned above, perhaps because it isn't as laugh-out-loud funny as some of the others. I'm not in the generation which makes Bueller its anthem, and I like Risky Business better than Ferris Bueller.

    By the way, I'm just typical of my generation. People 45 and older, both male and female, rank Risky higher than Ferris, but Ferris kicks butt in all the other demo groups.

    NUDITY: De Mornay looked spectacular. The sex scene was not highly explicit, but was super-charged with passion, and all of her naughty bits appeared sooner or later, albeit briefly. Her bottom half was stark naked, front to the camera, with the wind blowing the curtains and her open dress about them. The camera simply drank her in, acting as our eyes. A very memorable erotic moment in film history, in my opinion, and a helluva sexy one to watch.

  • De Mornay (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Francine Locke

    BOX OFFICE: Both Risky Business and Ferris Bueller were mega-hits, with 60-70 million in box office, and another thirty million or so in rentals. Of course, Better Off Dead didn't do much at the box, but is my kind of humor, and is therefore my pick of the four.

    IMDB summary: 6.8 out of 10.

    DVD info from Amazon. One of those two-sided DVD's with a widescreen and standard version, and a few minor features.

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    Click Here!