Tag: Elaine May

MOVIE REVIEW | The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Director Elaine May sets up her main character as an asshole from the very beginning, then basically dares us to watch him for the next 100 minutes.”

 Heart 1.jpg
“There’s no insincerity in those potatoes. There’s no deceit in the cauliflower. This is a totally honest meal.”

With A New Leaf, Elaine May took one of the darkest approaches to a romantic comedy I have ever seen, and the result was one of the funniest anti-romantic comedies I have ever seen.  If that was the extent of her directorial career, I would assume that May had a fairly dry, cynical distrust of the kind of romance and ideas of love that inform so many movies.  Now that I’ve seen her follow up, The Heartbreak Kid, I’m certain that’s the case.

Rushed into a marriage with a woman he barley knows, Lenny (Charles Grodin) ends up stuck in a car with his new bride (Jeannie Berlin as Lila) for several days as they drive across country for their honeymoon.  The extremely close quarters and endless hours on the road highlight every annoying quirk of Lila’s with Lenny well and truly out of love by the time they reach their honeymoon hotel in Florida. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | A New Leaf (1971)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Immensely dark and goofily light at the same time.”

 Leaf 1
“Never have I seen one woman in whom every social grace was so lacking. Did I say she was primitive? I retract that. She’s feral.”

In the late 50s and 60s, Nichols and May was one of America’s most successful and popular comedy teams.  When they moved beyond the stage, both went into the movies.  Mike Nichols directed revered classics like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate.  On the downside, he also made the inexplicable hit, Working GirlThe last directorial effort in his prolific career came in 2007 with Charlie Wilson’s War, before his death in 2014.  Elaine May, on the other hand, was a little more restrained in her output.  Directing only four feature films, the last one came in 1987 with Ishtar.  But from all reports, her directorial career is as impressive as it is short.  Which is why I knew I needed to see her debut behind the camera, A New Leaf.

Middle aged New York playboy Henry (Walter Mathua) spends his time and money driving and fixing his Ferrari, riding his prized horses and living the sweet life.  But when a cheque for his membership dues at an exclusive club bounces, Henry discovers that he has managed to burn through his entire trust fund inheritance.  Henry resorts to asking his uncle and former guardian (James Coco as Harry) for a loan, which Harry begrudgingly provides.  But the $50,000 to cover Henry’s most urgent debts must be paid back in six weeks, or else he will have to hand over every remaining possession to his uncle. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FLOP WEEK*** Ishtar (1987)

How did Ishtar make so little money?  How did Ishtar win a Razzie?  How is Ishtar not more famous?  ‘Coz I’ll tell you this much, Ishtar is pretty great.  I didn’t even know it was a massive flop, so at least its reputation has improved enough over the years that I didn’t know about it for bad reasons.  I just didn’t really know about it all.

Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty play Chuck and Lyle respectively, two struggling songwriters and reluctant performers who are terrible at writing songs and only a little bit better at performing.  The movie’s opening scene of the two trying to write a song together is hilarious.  The amazingly bad lyrics that they more than once pronounce to better than anything Simon and Garfunkle ever wrote, only get funnier the more you hear them.  The most repeated being, “Telling the truth can be dangerous business.  Honest and popular don’t go hand in hand.  If you admit that you can play the accordion, no one’ll hire you in a rock ‘n’ roll band”.  Watching Hoffman and Beatty sing these words with a look of total seriousness and straight faced sincerity really is evidence of just how good they are as actors.

A flash back shows how the two met and how they’re dedication to song writing sees them both dumped by their girlfriends only a few months later.  Single and desperate, they accept a residency singing to Americans in a Moroccan hotel lobby.  Almost as soon as they land, they’re mixed up in plan to overthrow the government.  A mysterious woman convinces Hoffman to give her his passport, Charles Grodin appears in all his awesome deadpan Grodininess as a CIA operative and the mysterious woman reappears every now and again to drag Hoffman and Beatty deeper into her world of espionage.

Instead of making them totally clueless to their predicament, Elaine May’s screenplay makes them fully aware of it almost immediately, but also fully ignorant of the real consequences.  It’s the same kind of approach that made Matt Damon so funny in The Informant and the technique works just as well in Ishtar.  Hoffman and Beatty see no problem with openly talking about the few facts they know in front of, and too anyone.   The idea of them arguing about petty, everyday rivalries while world changing events happen around, or due to, them is nothing new, but they both know how to really make it work.

I’m glad I didn’t know it was a flop before I watched it.  I’m glad I dint even know it was a comedy.  I’ve seen Hoffman do some comedic stuff as he’s gotten older, and of course he was in Tootise, I just never expected this sort of broad comedy from him.  Especially co-starring with Warren Beatty, who I think the only time I can remember him being funny or even showing a sense of humour was in an episode of The Larry Sanders Show.  Seeing Hoffman and Beatty both deliver these really funny, goofball performances was such a great surprise that I think it made a solidly funny movie an outright hilarious one.

Budget $55million / U.S Box Office $14.3million

Razzies Won:
Worst Director – Elaine May

Directed By – Elaine May
Written By – Elaine May

Instead of Ishtar, watch Ishtar.  This move really is underappreciated.  Give it a look.