Iconic & Problematic: “Fatal Attraction” (1987) starring Michael Douglas & Glenn Close

Erotic thriller (perhaps a guilty pleasure for some of us in quarantine life) is a subgenre of film which is defined as a thriller w/ illicit romance or erotic fantasy. Most erotic thrillers contain scenes of sex and nudity (though the frequency and explicitness varies). Erotic thrillers emerged as a distinct genre in the late 1980s, as a result of the success of this film. As some critics/viewers have noted, erotic thrillers are connected to film noir of the 1940s and ’50s which explored the dark side of life in post-WWII America.

A one-night fling, with no strings attached. That’s what she said. That’s what he believed. -A tag line for the film

Most of you already know the plot, as Fatal Attraction is considered iconic, yet problematic (when viewed by our modern eyes). Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is a successful NYC attorney, and on a weekend when his wife and daughter are away from home at his in-laws’ house, he has a work meeting that includes Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), an editor for a publishing company. This leads to a drink at a bar, and that leads to a passionate one night stand that turns into a weekend when Alex attempts suicide when Dan tries to leave. Dan thinks it’s over, as Alex has seemed to come to her senses. Suddenly, Alex tells him she is pregnant, and she is having this baby b/c (at age 36) it may be her last chance. Dan insists he isn’t leaving his wife for her and that he doesn’t love her; he is feeling indifferent (not hating her). Alex stalks Dan and gradually turns up the heat until his family is at risk!

Alex Forrest: [to Dan] Well, what am I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls, you change your number. I mean, I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan!

I was surprised how good the film actually was; it’s an intense stalker-drama. The three lead actors (Douglas, Close, and Anne Archer as the wife) do a great job. Douglas was also working on Wall Street (1987) at the same time. When Close’s agent first called to express her interest in playing Alex Forrest, he was told, “Please don’t make her come in. She’s completely wrong for the part.” Director Adrian Lyne also thought that she was “the last person on Earth” who should play the role. I was impressed by Close, esp. in the first act of the movie; she plays it sophisticated, cool, and has obvious chemistry w/ Douglas. Of course, her transformation to stalker later is scary. The white dress she wears at the end of the movie resembles a straightjacket. Kirstie Alley, who was under consideration for the role of Alex, provided a tape of a woman who had been stalking her then-husband, actor Parker Stevenson, in which she was begging to be part of his life. The woman’s exact words were used for the tape Alex sends to Dan in the film- wow!

I would read that script totally differently. The astounding thing was that in my research for Fatal Attraction, I talked to two psychiatrists. Never did a mental disorder come up. Never did the possibility of that come up. That, of course, would be the first thing I would think of now. -Close in a 2013 CBS News interview

During the Trump era, SNL did a parody of it w/ actors playing WH advisor Kellyanne Conway and CNN reporter Jake Tapper. Though many enjoyed it, others were offended by how Conway was portrayed. There are elements in this movie that are outdated; recall Alex’s line re: her not likely to have another baby (she is only aged 36). The filmmakers also skip over the mental health issue- yikes! The original ending was changed (b/c preview audiences hated it), though it sounds a lot more interesting. The ending we see is quite brutal; at one point, Close suffered a concussion and was rushed to the E.R. While examining her, doctors discovered that she was several weeks pregnant w/ her daughter! A young female comedian recently commented that Alex needed therapy and also some girlfriends who supported her- quite valid points. I’ve been listening this Summer to a podcast focused on the erotic thriller genre (Fatal Attractions) hosted by UK and French cinephiles.

[1] Glenn Close who had only played the nice girl roles blew everyone’s mind when she played Alex Forrest. What passion she put into the role and part of you couldn’t really hate her. She brings up a great point to Dan “Because I won’t allow you to treat me like some slut you can just bang a couple of times and throw in the garbage?” Your heart does break for her, but at the same time you want to scream at her to let go of Dan and not hurt his family. Michael Douglas as Dan plays the role extremely well. He gives Dan a sense of realism, he’s not a major jerk… Ann Archer as Beth was not only beautiful, classy, but incredibly intelligent. She makes Beth so real…

[2] Aside from the moral problems of adultery, doesn’t Alex have a point ? Isn’t she entitled to something besides simply being used for a night or two? The tension in this film is constant, although a lot of it seems too easily foreshadowed.

[3] The impact and influence of this great box office success has continued to be significantly stronger than would normally be expected, as it has successfully maintained its popularity over the years and even been responsible for the term “bunny boiler” becoming a universally recognised part of the language.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Mississippi Burning (1988) starring Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, & Frances McDormand

1964. When America was at war with itself. – Tag line

Mississippi Burning was very controversial when first released; in this time (after the Trump administration), it resonates stronger than ever. Some younger readers may never have heard of this film; it is fiction, but based on a real case (labeled “Mississippi Burning” by the FBI). The film is inspired by the 1964 murder by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) of three Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) field workers who were registering Black voters in Mississippi: a Black man named James Chaney (age 21) and two white (Jewish) men- Michael Schwerner (age 20) and Andrew Goodman (age 24). Some critics felt that many facts were altered or left out. There is much to admire re: this movie, though to our modern eyes, the lack of a fully-fleshed out Black character may be problematic. Director Spike Lee didn’t like it; he felt the preacher’s son (Aaron) was a “magical Negro” trope. On the other hand, this was Roger Ebert’s choice for the best film of 1988. You know it made a big impact (overseas), b/c it was (unofficially) remade into a Bollywood film, Aakrosh (2010).

Mayor Tilman: You like baseball, do you, Anderson?

Anderson: Yeah, I do. You know, it’s the only time when a black man can wave a stick at a white man and not start a riot.

When you think about it, 1964 is NOT too far back in time from 1988. Barry Norman (BBC film critic) described the (harrowing) opening of the film as “pure cinema, something no other medium could do so effectively.” Then we shift to the (much lighter) scene w/ the main characters- FBI agents Mr. Anderson (Gene Hackman) and Mr. Ward (Willem Dafoe- just 32). Don Johnson campaigned heavily for the role that went to Dafoe- LOL! Anderson (older/rumpled) studies some papers from a folder and sings a KKK song; Ward (younger/crisply-suited) isn’t amused. Anderson is making fun of the KKK, but Ward says: “I could do w/o the cabaret.” Anderson is a former small-town sheriff; Ward is a former DOJ attorney (“a Kennedy boy,” as Anderson comments). These men don’t know each other well and are mismatched, the viewer knows right away.

When they reach the small town, the agents are met w/ long/angry stares and outright hostility from the locals. Ward makes a (Northern/liberal) mistake; he goes to sit at the “Colored” section of the busy diner (NOT heeding the warning from Anderson, who knows the South). The young Black man sitting beside him becomes nervous and refuses to answer Ward’s questions; all eyes are on them. In the sheriff’s office, they first meet Deputy Pell (Brad Dourif), who isn’t too welcoming. Dourif makes some interesting choices w/ his role; he doesn’t always play it tough (we see that Pell is being influenced by more stronger personalities). Suddenly, Sheriff Stuckey (Gailard Sartain) pops out of his office, and starts breezily chatting w/ Anderson. Ward corrects him after Stuckey (the epitome of a fat, uncaring, racist cop) assumes Anderson is in charge of the investigation. In the barbershop, Anderson meets Mayor Tilman (R. Lee Ermey), who is more casually racist. In the motel lodge (later that night), we see the agents drinking and sharing stories. Anderson (matter-of-factly/softly) reveals something about his childhood growing up in the South.

Anderson: Where does it come from? All this hatred?

Anderson: You know, when I was a little boy, there was an old Negro farmer that lived down the road from us, name of Monroe. And he was… well, I guess he was just a little luckier than my daddy was. He bought himself a mule. That was a big deal around that town. My daddy hated that mule, ’cause his friends were always kidding him that they saw Monroe out plowing with his new mule, and Monroe was going to rent another field now he had a mule. One morning, that mule showed up dead. They poisoned the water. After that, there wasn’t any mention about that mule around my daddy. It just never came up. One time, we were driving down that road, and we passed Monroe’s place and we saw it was empty. He just packed up and left, I guess, he must of went up North or something. I looked over at my daddy’s face. I knew he done it. He saw that I knew. He was ashamed. I guess he was ashamed. He looked at me and said, “If you ain’t better than a n****r, son, who are you better than?”

Ward: You think that’s an excuse?

Anderson: No it’s not an excuse. It’s just a story about my daddy.

Ward: Where’s that leave you?

Anderson: My old man was just so full of hate that he didn’t know that bein’ poor was what was killin’ him.

A shotgun fires from a screeching car into the motel room! Ward decides that more agents are needed ASAP. The young Black man from the diner is picked up my some (hooded) men, beaten, and imprisoned in a large chicken coop in a field of cotton. (FYI: Since this wasn’t the season for cotton, the crew had to decorate the field w/ bits of cotton.) Then we see the same Black man pushed out of a car in the center of town- sending an (obvious) message to the FBI. The local cops and a group of (suited) FBI agents run to check on the injured man; Stuckey declares that his men will handle the matter. Agents have set up their HQ in the movie theater. Later we see them (along w/ buses of fresh-faced sailors) drag a swamp (a real one w/ mud, bugs, and possible alligators) for dead bodies.

…I didn’t do research. All I did was listen to [Hackman]. He had an amazing capacity for not giving away any part of himself (in read-throughs). But the minute we got on the set, little blinds on his eyes flipped up and everything was available. It was mesmerizing. He’s really believable, and it was like a basic acting lesson. -Frances McDormand

Now this isn’t just a typical “macho” movie; at the heart of it is the wife of the deputy- Mrs. Pell (a young Frances McDormand)- who also runs a hair salon (Gilly’s). Anderson first drops in at the salon, making self-deprecating comments about his hair (w/ its receding hairline). This amuses some of the ladies; Mrs. Pell bluntly points out that the FBI wouldn’t be around if the white men weren’t missing (along w/ Chaney). Later, when Ward and Anderson drop by the Pell’s humble home, we see the (not so pleasant) dynamic between the couple. While Ward interviews her husband, Anderson goes to the kitchen and strikes up a convo w/ Mrs. Pell (in a humble manner, using folksy charm). Later that night, we learn more about both characters when Anderson comes by w/ some wildflowers. We see the romantic chemistry growing between Anderson and Mrs. Pell, despite their ages and the situation. She has to lie to cover for her husband; Anderson realizes that she is lying (and they both look disappointed about it). Before he leaves, he gently touches her hair (a bold, yet vulnerable move). In a previous scene, Anderson had made “a power move” on Deputy Pell; he is working late (or maybe getting into some violence w/ his KKK pals).

Mrs. Pell: It’s ugly. This whole thing is so ugly. Have you any idea what it’s like to live with all this? People look at us and only see bigots and racists. Hatred isn’t something you’re born with. It gets taught. At school, they said segregation what’s said in the Bible… Genesis 9, Verse 27. At 7 years of age, you get told it enough times, you believe it. You believe the hatred. You live it… you breathe it. You marry it.

After being hired by Orion Pictures, Parker made several changes from screenwriter Chris Gerolmo’s original draft (which was “a big/violent detective story”). Parker omitted a Mafia hitman and created Agent Monk. The scene in which Frank Bailey brutally beats a news cameraman was based on an actual event. Parker also wrote a sex scene involving Anderson and Mrs. Pell. The scene was omitted (after Hackman suggested to Parker that the relationship between the two characters be more discreet). Though some close-ups were shot, in the final film, the kiss between Hackman and McDormand is in shadow (at a respectful distance). The music (composed by Trevor Jones) is a very crucial part of this movie; it creates a tense (thriller-like) atmosphere in many scenes. In several key scenes, there is the gospel element. The movie was shot in Alabama and Mississippi, so there is authenticity. We see the old buildings, dust, poverty, rural lands, and (above all) local people (some of whom may had sympathies to the Klan). There are many character actors who add flavor to the story: Kevin Dunn (a young/eager FBI agent coordinating the case), Stephen Tobolowsky (a prominent businessman/KKK leader), Michael Rooker (the unapologetic tough guy/KKK member-Frank Bailey), a teen Darius McCrary (Aaron), Frankie Faison (a respected preacher/Aaron’s father), and Badja Djola (the Black FBI interrogator- Agent Monk). Ward (who is no pushover, despite his by-the-book approach) and Anderson (smarter than he looks) come to respect each other, but it happens slowly; they don’t become “buddy cops.”

“The Glass Menagerie” (1987) starring Joanne Woodward, John Malkovich, & Karen Allen

Tom [in the opening]: Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you an illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

In Tennessee Williams’ memory play, Tom Wingfield (an aspiring writer working at a shoe warehouse) longs to escape from his stifling apt. in St. Louis, where his genteel/Southern-bred mother, Amanda, worries about the future prospects of his older sister, Laura (who walks w/ a limp and is mentally fragile). While Tom escapes to the movies, Laura has created a world of her own w/ her collection of glass figurines. The original Broadway stage play opened at the Playhouse Theatre on March 31, 1945 and ran for 563 performances. The play has autobiographical elements, featuring characters based on Williams (named Thomas), his mother, and his sister (Rose). Growing up, I saw the 1973 TV version starring Katherine Hepburn (Amanda), Sam Waterston (Tom), Joanna Miles (Laura), and Michael Moriarty (Jim- the gentleman caller) on PBS. All 4 actors received Emmy noms; Miles and Moriarty won. Waterston and Moriarty (who started in the theater) are best known for their roles as ADAs on Law and Order.

Amanda: Rise and Shine! Rise and Shine!

Tom: I will rise but I will NOT Shine…

This movie was directed by Paul Newman (who was married to Woodward); they were an iconic pair in front of and behind the camera. The New York Times reviewer wrote (in part): “starts stiffly and gets better as it goes along, with the dinner-party sequence its biggest success; in this highly charged situation, Ms. Woodward’s Amanda indeed seems to flower.” Amanda (Joanne Woodward) is a survivor who has to be practical; she works at a department store and sells magazine subscriptions on the side. Her charming/alcoholic husband (whose portrait hangs in a prominent place in the apt.) abandoned the family long ago (“a telephone man who fell in love with long distance”). Amanda speaks often of the comforts of her youth and the admiration she received as a young woman (“17 gentlemen callers on one afternoon”).

Amanda: You are the only young man that I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present becomes the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it!

Tom (John Malkovich) chafes under the boring routine of his his life, longing for “adventure.” Is he really going to the movies (even Amanda is suspicious), or is this cover for something Williams couldn’t reveal in the 1940s? As one viewer commented: “Malkovich etches a remarkable portrayal of Tom- defiantly unafraid of the character’s possible gay subtext- that grows in poignancy to a heartbreaking final monologue.” Malkovich had better clothes (and a nice hairpiece) than Waterston, who dressed more like a working-class man.

Amanda becomes obsessed w/ finding “a gentleman caller” for Laura (Karen Allen), who dropped out of business college and has no job. Allen conveys a lot of vulnerability in her characterization. I esp. liked the scenes w/ Tom and Laura; they are very close (though of differing personalities). Under pressure from his mother, Tom invites Jim (James Naughton), a shipping clerk/friend from work, to dinner. In one of his monologues, Tom explains that “the gentleman caller” represents “something that one hopes for.” I really liked how Moriarty played Jim, but I think Naughton did a good job also.

It turns out that Jim is the boy who Laura had a crush on in HS; he was a popular athlete, singer, and actor. Now, he is a confident/positive-thinking young man seeking to improve his position. Jim tries to get Laura to overcome her “inferiority complex” and they dance and even share a kiss. Even though I knew the story, I felt disappointed when Jim (considered the most “normal” character) revealed that he was engaged. Tom goes off to the Merchant Marines, but he always regrets that he couldn’t help Laura (just as Williams couldn’t prevent the lobotomy that was performed on Rose).

[1] Paul Newman shows much respect for Williams’ play (some will say “too much”), but when you deal with first class actors, who cares?

His wife Joanne Woodward displays of the nuances of an over-possessive mother, beyond good and evil; deserted by a man whose picture is still hanging on a wall, she tries to help her children avoid her sad life… […Wearing a horrible grey wig, she still thinks she’s attractive and puts on her coquette act before Jim. A great performance by an actress.

[2] Under-rated beautifully realized version of a famous play – everything is just right and Karen Allen’s work as the tragic Laura is deeply moving… 

[3] Joanne Woodward shines in a multi-layered, brilliant turn as one of the most interesting characters in modern literature, Amanda Wingfieid. She gives just the right touch to small moments that give the viewer an enlightening peek at the desperate condition of the fading southern belle…

John Malkovich also turns in a terrific performance…

[4] I think John Malkovich did an amazing job as Tom. His monologues at the beginning of every scene were especially well-done. He gave the movie a really dream-like quality.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, & Michelle Pfeiffer

Vicomte de Valmont: I often wonder how you manage to invent yourself.

Marquise de Merteuil: Well, I had no choice, did I? I’m a woman. Women are obliged to be far more skillful than men. You can ruin our reputation and our life with a few well-chosen words. So, of course, I had to invent, not only myself, but ways of escape no one has every thought of before. And I’ve succeeded because I’ve always known I was born to dominate your sex and avenge my own.

The novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos was first published in 1782; it was considered so scandalous that when Queen Marie Antoinette commissioned a copy, she had to have it bound in a blank cover. Many of you may already know the plot of the story; it came out just before the French Revolution. In late 18th c. France, the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich in his star-making role) play a dangerous game of seduction. Valmont is someone who measures success by his female conquests. Merteuil challenges him to seduce the young/virginal, Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman in one of her early roles), and provide proof in writing of his success. Cecile is engaged to the man who broke up w/ Merteuil (the first one to do so, allegedly). Valmont’s reward will be to spend one night w/ Merteuil; they were once lovers years back. Valmont wants to seduce the happily-married/devout Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is staying w/ his elderly aunt, Madame de Rosemonde (Mildred Natwick in her final role). It turns out that Valmont falls in love w/ Tourvel!

Valmont: You see, I have no intention of breaking down her prejudices. I want her to believe in God and virtue and the sanctity of marriage, and still not be able to stop herself. I want the excitement of watching her betray everything that’s is most important to her. Surely you understand that. I thought “betrayal” was your favorite word.

Merteuil: No, no…”cruelty.” I always think that has a nobler ring to it

I watched this movie many years ago; I didn’t recall a lot of the details. I re-watched it recently and was blown away- this is must-see for any film fan! You don’t have to be a big fan of period pieces or costume dramas; the funny/clever dialogue will pull you in. As some viewers noted, almost every line has a double entendre; I recommend seeing it twice to take it all in. In the opening, we see the two leads getting dressed in fine clothes and made-up (powdered faces; wigs) by several servants. To save money, some of the costumes were created from sari material- how cool!

Merteuil: One of the reasons I never re-married, despite a bewildering range of offers, was the determination NEVER AGAIN to be ordered about.

Dangerous Liaisons opened in theaters in 1988, a year before Valmont (1989) starring Annette Bening and Colin Firth. According to screenwriter Christopher Hampton, the director of Valmont- Milos Forman- attended several performances of the play in London, then decided to film his own version. Hampton offered to have dinner w/ Forman to discuss the project, but the director never showed up. The competing film convinced the studio, Lorimar, to rush this movie into production, in order to beat Valmont into theaters. Dangerous Liaisons won 3 Oscars, was a critical success, and had moderate box office success. Bening auditioned for the role of Merteuil in this movie also. Pfeiffer was offered the role of Merteuil in Valmont. Alan Rickman made the role of Valmont famous in London and on Broadway. Since the producers wanted to cast a more established actor in the role, Rickman wasn’t considered.

The movie should appeal to everyone. It’s sleazy, elegant, vicious and mean, and it’s about people doing hideous things to each other. If that weren’t enough, it has a tragic end. What more could people ask for? -Malkovich in a 1988 interview

Malkovich (in his first romantic role) shows that men like Valmont get by w/ wit, charm, and style (not physical beauty). In some of the (dimly lit) scenes w/ the long/brown wig, he looks esp. intense and a bit mysterious. There are little character moments where he smirks or does something w/ his body langauge, showing the audience that Valmont is having fun (just like us). Some viewers preferred Firth as Valmont, perhaps b/c he was more handsome and light-hearted. Thurman (only 17 y.o. and standing at 6′ tall) isn’t intimidated to go toe-to-toe w/ much older/experienced actors. I finally realized that Cecile’s mother, Madame de Volanges (Swoosie Kurtz), has a dislike for Valmont b/c they were once lovers (whoa)! Not even the (wooden) acting of a young Keanu Reeves can detract from the viewer enjoying this movie. Some viewers said that he’s supposed to be naive; luckily, he doesn’t have much to do. Fans of Doctor Who will get a kick out of Peter Capaldi (30 y.o.) as Valmont’s loyal servant Azolan; he uses his Scottish accent. The 5 American actors speak using their natural accents; this is rare for a period film.

We filmed in France and I had given birth to Annie 7 weeks before we started preparing for the film. For the first time in my life, I had these great breasts. It’ll never happen again, but for one brief, shining season, I had the most incredible breasts. James Acheson, the costume designer… …I just loved it because they pushed my breasts up and made me have cleavage. I guess I should be saying something more intellectual about the film, but I just remembered how great it felt to have those breasts. -Close in a 1996 interview

It was tough for me to decide, but Close (then 41 y.o.) was the most fascinating of the characters. Close (who didn’t appear in the movies until she was already 35 y.o.) and Malkovich (who comes from the theater like Close) make a strong duo; they have fantastic chemistry together. Close came up w/ her character’s final scene- wow! Director Stephen Frears gave her the line: “her soul was on her face,” Close thought for a minute and stated: “I know how to show that.” The score (which flows perfectly w/ the story) was composed by George Fenton; we also hear the music of Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi. I think the music will really carry the viewer away! Speaking of which, I learned that Malkovich (35 y.o.) and Pfeiffer (30 y.o.) had an affair during the filming; his wife (actress Glenne Headley) filed for divorce soonafter.

[1] The first thing that strikes you is how well the film is lit and shot. The period locations and costumes are visually sumptuous and perfect. Better yet, the acting entirely matches the skill of the direction that takes its method from the theatre – emotions are conveyed by expression and not dialogue. Glenn Close gives her best performance on celluloid as the scheming Madame de Merteuil, amorally hellbent on bending everyone to her will, no matter the method or the cost, and John Malkovitch is her perfect foil as the cynical hedonistic but world-weary Valmont. Michelle Pfeiffer engages our empathy as the tortured and manipulated target of Malkovitch’s desire and Close’s plotting.

[2] Stephen Frears, in his American film debut, creates a lush visage of restrained yet swooning passions, icy stares, and hushed, measured speeches against the backdrop of the Ile-de-France…

The dark comedy that pins two bored aristocrats against each other as they play God with other people’s lives without realizing the devastating consequences that will result from this has been the stuff of legend and allure. Glenn Close, John Malkovich, and Michelle Pfeiffer all are beyond awards in their exacting and multidimensional portrayals of three very different people caught in a web of deceit. However the star of this adaptation has to be Christopher Hampton who immortalizes Laclos’ vision in a subtle, yet powerful story filled with subtext and restrained cruelty.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Romancing the Stone” (1984) starring Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner

Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), a romance novelist in NYC, receives a treasure map in the mail from her recently murdered BIL. Her sister, Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor- one of the co-writers of the screenplay), is kidnapped in Colombia. Two sleazy criminal cousins, Ralph (Danny DeVito) and Ira (Zach Norman), demand that Joan travel to Cartegena to exchange the map for her sister. Joan, despite the warnings of her editor, Gloria (Holland Taylor), flies to Colombia. Joan (who doesn’t know Spanish) becomes lost in the jungle after being fooled by the mysterious Zolo (Manuel Ojeda). Joan meets an irreverent fortune-hunter, Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), who agrees to help her out for a price. They embark on an adventure that could be straight out of one of Joan’s novels!

Gloria: [observing men in a bar] Wimp. Wimp. Loser. Loser. Major loser. Too angry. Too vague. Too desperate. God, too happy. Oh, look at this guy. Mr. Mondo Dismo. I actually used to date him. Total sleaze bucket. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Hold everything. Get a load of this character. What about him?

Joan Wilder: No, he’s – he’s just not…

Gloria: Who? Jessie?

Joan: Maybe it’s silly, but, I know there is somebody out there for me.

This was the only produced screenplay for writer Diane Thomas; she was a waitress in Malibu when Douglas optioned her script for $250,000 – wow! Thomas (only 39 y.o.) died in a car accident, while working on a new project w/ Steven Spielberg the following year; her bf has been driving the Porsche that Douglas had bought her as a gift. Director Robert Zemeckis was able to go forward on his own project, Back to the Future (1985), since this movie was a hit. Alan Silvestri was hired to do a temporary score, but Zemeckis liked his work so much that he kept him on as composer. Romancing the Stone was to be filmed in Colombia; the country suffered an increase in kidnappings of Americans, so production was moved to Mexico. After the film’s original cut rated very low w/ preview audiences, Fox feared it would be a flop and Zemeckis was fired from Cocoon. Zemeckis made substantial changes, incl. to the prologue and ending; the scene w/ Gloria and Joan to the bar was added and scene in the crashed plane was re-shot (6 mos. later).

Joan: [after Jack cuts off the heels of her shoes] These were Italian.

Jack: Now they’re practical.

If you’re in a cranky mood, or just want to watch a fun movie, check this out! Yes, this has elements of the rom com (NOT my fave genre), BUT the twist is the action/adventure (which drew me in). There is also humor, incl. some LOL moments (even IF feeling V low/tired)! The chemistry between Turner (who came from the theater) and Douglas (who was already a box office draw) is terrific; Douglas said: “I don’t know what it was. Somehow, we just got along right from the start.” I’m NOT a big fan of Douglas (though I love his dad’s work), BUT I found him to be a charming guy here. Turner admitted that it was tough to work w/ Zemeckis, as she was still new to movies and didn’t understand much re: directing for the screen. We know DeVito is very funny, but Juan (Mexican actor/director Alfonso Arau) provides humor also. At first, Juan (a drug lord) becomes a fanboy upon meeting Joan (his fave writer), then he takes her and Jack on a wild ride on his “mule” Pepe (a tricked-out truck). Arau directed two of the most (visually) appealing movies I’ve ever seen- Like Water for Chocolate and A Walk in the Clouds.

Joan: What is all this?

Jack: All this? About five to life in the States, a couple of centuries down here.

Joan: Oh, marijuana.

Jack: Oh, you smoke it?

Joan: [defensively] I went to college.

The music goes along so well w/ the film- it just carries you into the adventure. The scenery is beautiful, esp. the brief scene where Juan, Jack, and Joan come upon the valley w/ “The Devil’s Fork.” The hair and costuming also helps tell the story. At the start of the story, Joan has her hair up in a bun and wears a puffy jacket over conservative/tight business suits. Later on, her hair is down and she’s wearing a flowing top and skirt w/ bold/bright flowers. The dance scene is sweet and also reminiscent of classic Hollywood; Douglas said that they didn’t realize that cameras were rolling (so were just enjoying themselves dancing w/ the locals/extras).

In the prologue depicting Joan’s latest novel, the music used is the theme from How the West Was Won (1962). In the fight scene, Zolo asks Joan: “How will you die? Slow like a snail? Or fast like a shooting star?” This is a call-back to the opening when the villain tells Angelina: “You can go quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than the molasses in January.” At the end, Jack and Joan “sail off” down the street in Jack’s yacht Angelina (the name of the character in the book Joan is writing at the beginning of the film).