“I think… no, I am positive… that you are the most unattractive man I have ever met in my entire life. You know, in the short time we’ve been together, you have demonstrated every loathsome characteristic of the male personality and even discovered a few new ones. You are physically repulsive, intellectually retarded, you’re morally reprehensible, vulgar, insensitive, selfish, stupid, you have no taste, a lousy sense of humor and you smell. You’re not even interesting enough to make me sick.”
You wanna talk about an eclectic career? In the 60s, George Miller was a doctor, in the late 70s, he decided to become a film maker, and made one of the most iconic Australian movies of all time, Mad Max. In the years since, he’s made hugely successful, family friendly franchises, like Babe and Happy Feet, prestige stuff like The Year My Voice Broke and Lorenzo’s Oil. And just this year, at 70 bloody years old, he pretty much redefined what action movies can be, with Mad Max: Fury Road. But amongst that wide ranging career, one movie stands out as the most perplexing to me. A silly little 80s piece of puff about love, loneliness and the devil. A movie called The Witches of Eastwick.
In the sleepy, idyllic town of Eastwick, three local broads have a problem. A lack of man problem. Alexandra (Cher) is a single mother of one, after the death of her husband. Jane (Susan Sarandon) is a single mother of none after her inability to have kids lead to a divorce. While Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a single mother of six after her husband ran off. One night, over a few wines, the three women wish for the perfect man to save them from singledom. The next day, an eccentric millionaire arrives in town, buying a mysterious local mansion that has been empty for years.
That eccentric millionaire is Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson), and it’s not long before he seduces all three of the central women. It’s also not long before it’s clear that there might be something other worldly to Daryl. Even more, it turns out that there’s something other worldly about Alexandra, Jane and Sukie. It turns out they’re a witche’s coven without knowing it, and their wine fuelled wish may have actually summoned Daryl to them. Soon, they’re embracing their powers and not always using them for good.
The Witches of Eastwick is fun, silly and dark in equal proportions, and everything that works about it comes down to amazing casting. Cher as the sarcastic, cynical, yet nurturing den mother of the trio. Susan Sarandon perfectly nails the uptight, shy beginnings of Jane, and her newly discovered sexpot party girl side. And Michelle Pfeiffer is just spot on as the quirky conscience of the three. But as amazing as they are, was there a single better choice for someone to portray a playboy devil in 1987, than Jack Nicholson? The cocky bastard, or at least, his cocky bastard public persona, is Daryl Van Horn.
I doubt anyone sees The Witches of Eastwick as anywhere near the pinnacle of George Miller’s all over the shop filmography. I certainly wouldn’t put it anywhere near the top. But what I do love about The Witches of Eastwick is that it is such a perfect encapsulation and representative of Miller’s all over the shop filmography. There are few directors in their 70s who still have the ability to surprise audiences. And even though this movie might be almost 30 years old, it still added to my modern day interest in George Miller.