FRANKIE AND JOHNNY. (1991) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

frankie johnny portrait

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY. (1991) BASED ON THE STAGEPLAY ‘FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE’ BY TERRENCE MCNALLY. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY GARRY MARSHALL.

STARRING AL PACINO, MICHELLE PFEIFFER, NATHAN LANE, KATE NELLIGAN, JANE MORRIS AND HECTOR ELIZONDO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘You never choose love. Love chooses you.’

‘We were a couple before we ever met.’

This is a romantic comedy by the guy who’s to blame for PRETTY WOMAN, possibly the most unrealistic screen portrayal of a prostitute ever. Most prostitutes don’t look like Julia Roberts, and most prostitutes don’t get whisked away from their seedy, sordid lives by billionaires who look like Richard Gere.

It’s a pure fairytale, a princess-and-her-knight-on-a-white-charger fantasy, in which the woman gets ‘saved’ from her cruddy life by Some Guy. Some Controlling Asshole, more like. I never liked PRETTY WOMAN, partly because of the mad above-mentioned storyline and partly because I could never stand Richard Gere.

I adore FRANKIE AND JOHNNY, though, despite the fact that it, too, depicts Michelle Pfeiffer’s life as Frankie to be the saddest, loneliest most pointless existence ever. Until Al Pacino as Johnny, her knight-in-shining-armour, comes into it, that is.

Then she’s all fulfilled and happy as a woman, and it’s all thanks to This One Man. Grrrrrr. It’s a good thing that I happen to really like Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino. They were great together in SCARFACE and they have good chemistry here too.

Frankie is a waitress in Nick’s (Hector Elizondo) greasy spoon diner in New York. She wears the little cute pink waitress dress and the little scuffed trainers with the ankle socks, and she ties her limp greasy hair up in an anyhow old ponytail.

She has good friends at her job, even though the other three waitresses working at Nick’s are mostly there to portray for the viewer the Three Stages Of Spinsterhood. Cora is the past-her-prime slutty one with a heart of pure gold who can still pull a bloke for sex, but each subsequent rubbish one-night-stand at her flat, with her pet moggy watching, just takes another great big bite out of her empty soul which can ill afford it.

Nedda, whom I personally love for her don’t-give-a-shit individuality, is the dowdy virginal one who’s probably never had sex and who goes home alone every night to her pet turtle. A bit like twin spinster sisters Patty and Selma from THE SIMPSONS. And yet she’s funny and witty with a great dry sense of humour and a have-a-go attitude. Just look at her up dancing!

Helen, the eldest of all the waitresses who’s worked at Nick’s for donkey’s years, is the real cautionary tale as she dies alone and, we presume, unloved, near the start of the film. Although we can clearly see that each of the three waitresses is a wonderful woman with so much untapped potential, the film is clearly warning us lady viewers to Find A Man Sharpish Or We’ll End Up Like One Of The Waitresses In FRANKIE AND JOHNNY.

Anyway, Frankie has been messed about big-time by guys so, when we meet her, she thinks she’s off men for life. She has her little self-contained flat which has a terrific view of all her neighbours’ places (think Jimmy Stewart in REAR WINDOW), and she has her lovely funny Gay Best Friend Tim and his new boyfriend Bobby for company when she needs them.

She’s just bought a VCR for herself and there’s a pizza place nearby, so she’s totally sorted for her evening’s sustenance and entertainment when work finishes for the day. What the bloody hell does she want with a man? If she needs a lightbulb changing or a fuse mending, she’s got the two gay lads to rush to the rescue.

(Now, she might of course know how to do-it-herself but, having seen her efforts with the new VCR, this is doubtful. The film is heavily implying that, if she had a man in her life, she wouldn’t have to worry her fluffy little head about nasty things like recalcitrant VCRs. Hmmm.)

Frankie’s still immersed in her mind in the bad relationships of the past. She’s reluctant to move on and reluctant to relinquish the pain and suffering of this self- same past. We’ve all been there. Nestling the pain of past break-ups permanently close to our bosoms can excuse us from risking the doubts and uncertainties inherent in getting involved with someone new.

Frankie’s more used to the pain, you see. She carries it around with her everywhere. She wears it like a bloody badge. It’s all nicely and safely within her comfort zone and, in order to get her to leave it, you’d nearly have to prise her out of it with a knife like she was a piece of shellfish not at all keen to leave the safety and security of the shell. She might as well have FRAGILE: I HAVE BEEN HURT BY MEN BEFORE tattooed across her forehead for all to see.

And then along comes Johnny, ex-jailbird (don’t worry, it was only for petty fraud, nothing more serious!) and Nick’s new quirky short-order cook at the diner, to confound and confuse all Frankie’s sensibilities and all her nice neat notions of what love is meant to be like.

Johnny is open about his feelings for Frankie. Despite her best efforts, she’s attracted to him too and they start seeing each other. But Johnny very much believes in living in the here-and-now and judging people on their merits as he sees them, whereas Frankie is still dwelling in the painful territories of her disastrous romantic past and she now tars all men with the same brush.

You’re a man? Oh, right, well, you’re obviously a cruel abusive bastard like the other men I’ve known and I want nothing whatsoever to do with you. Johnny, however, takes great exception to being tarred with this rather grubby brush and tries to show Frankie that not all men are shits. He’s got an uphill job ahead of him, though.

Johnny’s trouble is that he won’t stay in his little box, in the neat little compartment in Frankie’s life marked ‘Men.’ Like when he shows up at her bowling night and she’s completely flummoxed because it’s her bowling night, not his. How dare he show up unscheduled, making himself popular with Tim and her gal-pals?

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY is another fairytale, another fantasy romance in which the woman is saved by a man, and not even a billionaire this time but a short-order cook and ex-con. The message being, I suppose, that if you’re a woman flirting with middle-age whose biological clock, let’s face it, is probably going like the clappers, then any man at all will do to arrest the rot, as it were. I hate that idea, but I really do love this film. Why?

Oh, it’s just everything, you know? It’s the chemistry between the two incredibly attractive leads, it’s the New York setting in which anything wonderful, however unlikely, might happen. It’s the beautiful and delicate signature tune by Claude Debussy.

It’s the soul and the indefatigable spirit of The Waitresses (Christmas Wrapping, anyone?), and it’s the hope that exists within each and every one of us that, no matter how shit things get, there’ll always be that one perfect person out there for us. So you didn’t know that I was a hopeless romantic, huh? Well, whaddya know? Ya learn something new every day…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

phila wedding

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) BASED ON THE 1939 PLAY OF THE SAME NAME BY PHILIP BARRY. DIRECTED BY GEORGE CUKOR. STARRING KATHARINE HEPBURN, CARY GRANT, JAMES STEWART, JOHN HOWARD, RUTH HUSSEY AND HENRY DANIELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Billed as ‘a sophisticated romantic comedy,’ THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is just that, a romantic comedy about- and possibly even for- rich, connected people. No peasants may apply, lol.

Not everyone watching it will be able to relate to Tracy Samantha Lord’s elegant swimming pool-and-tea-in-the-conservatory lifestyle, and I suppose not everyone watching it will sympathise with her haughty, aristocratic fault-finding manner which presupposes that no-one, husband or lover, will be able to live up to the almost excruciatingly high standards she’s set for herself. And, most importantly, for other people as well. On the other hand, she’s played by Katharine Hepburn and it’s a good strong performance, so I say just relax and go with the flow…

Beloved American actor James Stewart plays Macaulay Connor (I nearly wrote Culkin there!), a promising young newspaper writer who fancies himself as the next Ernest Hemingway, with his short-story-writing and his big literary dreams.

He’s disgusted, therefore, when his Editor Sidney Kidd, played by Henry Daniell- here for once in a non-villainous role- orders him to Philadelphia to cover the society wedding of the year, that of wealthy socialite Tracy Lord to a chap called George Kittredge.

What am I, some kind of shitty gossip columnist, he wails to his Editor but it’s no dice. Off to Philadelphia he must obediently trot, if he wants to keep his job, that is. As the accompanying photographer Elizabeth Imbrie points out, they’ve all got to eat, haven’t they, and for that they need jobs. I daresay that even the great Ernest Hemingway himself had to boil the odd egg and butter the odd slice of toast to go with it in order to stave off the hunger pangs.

When Macaulay, known to his friends as Mike, and Liz get to the Lord estate, they’re a bit bedazzled by all the grandeur. Liz (who, by the way, is head-over-heels in love with Mike but he’s too thick to know it) rather politically incorrectly remarks that she half expects to see ‘picaninnies’ floating around the place.

No doubt what she means by this is that the Lord house, with its ‘south parlour,’ resembles nothing so much as a modern-day Tara-from-GONE WITH THE WIND-style plantation.

The gangly reporter Mike, sorry, serious writer Mike, who’s already actually published a book of his short stories, is a little out of his depth amidst such obvious wealth and position. Liz is none too comfortable either, although she implies she’d swap places with Tracy Lord in a heartbeat.

Tracy herself is polished, sophisticated and able to greet the two newshounds with a professional ease that contains no real warmth. It’s born of years of practice and means little in terms of sincerity.

Mind you, she resents deeply that it was her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), who managed to insinuate the pair of journos from SPY magazine into the Lord house in the first place. Now they’re staying in her home to cover her wedding- a little blackmail goes a long way- and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Tracy and Dexter split up two years earlier when Tracy could no longer tolerate his drinking and he was no longer willing to put up with her Little Miss Perfect holier-than-thou attitude.

He blames her for his drinking, saying that the worse she behaved to him the more he drank. Talk about seeking to blame others for your own failings. If he’d gone to AA at all, they might have taught him to ‘own’ his own drinking and take responsibility for it, the creep.

Tracy and Dexter fought like cat and dog and they eventually broke up. Tracy’s annoying younger sister Dinah gleefully recounts how Dexter ‘socked’ her sister in the kisser before he left- and she even expresses a hope that he might do it again some day- but don’t worry folks. He didn’t actually hit her, he merely shoved her so that she fell over. Well, that’s all right then.

There’s still a major spark between the pair though. Dexter- and indeed Macaulay- are both wondering what the hell the spirited Tracy is doing getting married to the undoubtedly worthy but undoubtedly stodgy and rather dull George Kittredge.

He’s not of Tracy’s ‘class,’ you see, and he doesn’t know how to ride properly or even to wear jodphurs properly like a proper rich person. Oh dear, how shocking. Tracy needs someone she can spar with, not this dull older man who’ll probably be in bed by nine-thirty with a cup of cocoa and a lurid paperback thriller, the closest he’ll probably come to experiencing any real thrills himself. Miaow…!

Tracy is intrigued by Mike, who’s becoming more smitten with Tracy by the hour, much to poor Liz’s distress. Tracy checks out Mike’s book from the local library and falls in love with his words. What’s someone who can write like that doing covering a society wedding for SPY magazine, she demands to know. It’s clear she’s never had to work for her own living.

There’s a lot of talk amongst the men in the film, including Tracy’s own father, of Tracy’s being like a cold, untouchable statue of a goddess who doesn’t have any real human feelings and is utterly devoid of the milk of human kindness.

They imply she’s not a real human being at all, just a perfect automaton without any faults or human frailties. She’s accused of having no understanding of, or patience with, these human frailties and human imperfections that other people have but she apparently doesn’t.

Tracy is hurt by these assertions, especially coming from her father who is a randy philanderer who has hurt Tracy’s mother immeasurably with his dalliance with a dancer. Tracy, seemingly, has forced her mother to live up to her own exacting standards by kicking the Dad out, which he certainly deserves but it makes Mrs. Lord desperately unhappy.

Maybe Tracy’s standards are okay for Tracy herself, but not for everyone. Maybe she shouldn’t try to impose them on other people? Is that the lesson she’s supposed to learn in this highly popular and successful ‘comedy of re-marriage…?’

So, who does ‘Red’ wed, in the end? The rather judgemental George Kittredge, who at the end of the film pronounces that Tracy’s ‘class’ are on the way out and good riddance to every man Jack of ’em?

The starstruck Macaulay Connor, who’s too stupid to know that he has a good woman in love with him already in the form of photographer Elizabeth Imbrie, who’s obviously had to fend for herself in a way that the uber-privileged Tracy never has?

Or will it be the dashing C.K. Dexter Haven, the gadabout yacht designer who was Tracy’s first real love and the man she drove away with her criticisms and her overbearing attitude that holds that she’s right and everyone else is wrong…?

Personally I feel like Tracy, who must be worn out from uttering all that sparkling dialogue in Katharine Hepburn’s trademark haughty voice, could benefit from some time alone to work out how she really feels about each man, but what do I know? I’m just some schmuck.

The stage is set, as it were. The wedding guests are already seated, the pastor is ready with his ‘Do you, Tracy Samantha Lord, take this man to be thy awfully wedded etc.,’ and the pianist has already struck up the first few familiar bars of the Wedding March.

Tracy has clearly got to marry someone, in order to give the guests the show they’ve come for. Which man will it be? Will it be one of our Big Three, or is there even a fourth suitor possibly waiting in the wings? (There isn’t. That’s just some red herring I threw in to stir things up.) Well, watch out anyway, folks. Here Comes The Bride…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor