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The Bottom Shelf #132

11.01.2007

Somehow I can't imagine looking back in 25 years time and seeing YOU, ME AND DUPREE as being a good movie, but what daughter can't pull off, mother excels at. Goldie Hawn was the shit back in the day. Start working harder, Kate.

SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (1980)
Directed by: Jay Sandrich
Starring: Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase

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The best thing about watching older movies is to have a solid giggle over the electronic devices that were used back in the day and considered to be top of the line. Perhaps it's because I'm starting to get older, but I don't honestly consider 27 years ago to be that long of a time period. Still, watching a movie where there are tiny portable televisions where there are now digital flat panel screens that can be held in the palm of your hand, or hearing a character talk about trying to get in touch with someone through their "car radio" in a time when the question isn't whether or not you have a cell phone but what carrier you have it under, is f*cking amusing to me. The other thing that's priceless is seeing two good comic actors' performances stand up better than anything that's ever been built by our trusty Asian friends.

If there's anything more trustworthy than Goldie Hawn's vacant eyed expression or Chevy Chase's ability to take a pratfall, it's the quality of a Neil Simon screenplay. Where most writers try to find warm and fuzzy material in warm and fuzzy places, Simon likes to dig deeper, looking for those strained laughs that get mined from circumstances where you better be laughing to avoid crying. SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES is about as screwball as Simon gets, focusing on a divorced couple that has to learn to reestablish bonds with one another in the midst of a crisis. When Chase is kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to rob a bank with two wayward criminals, he escapes and goes looking for assistance from his defense attorney ex-wife played by Hawn. Hawn is remarried to Charles Grodin, another attorney who is up for the position of District Attorney. Her home is filled with mongrel dogs and petty criminals because she just can't be seen as being undependable, adding more confusion to an already crazy mix.

Charles Grodin has to be one of the least best and least respected character actors in Hollywood. Fantastic at playing the straight man, often the butt of jokes where his characters are slighted by the people who are supposed to love them most, he always does so with the greatest of dignity. I have never seen him look stupid while being played for the fool, and that's really saying something. And while both Hawn and Chase have gone on to be seen as staying past their welcome in the genres that they helped to build, there is a fire between the two of them which only makes them better. Hawn was supposedly under a great deal of stress when this movie was filming, made right after the time that she had given birth to daughter Kate Hudson and in the middle of REAL marital/divorce troubles with ex-husband Bill Hudson. Still, I hold her up as being a beacon for what movie stars used to represent: strength, steadiness and reliability. In her toughest hours she pulled out some great winners and all without the modern conveniences like many of the fly-by-night movie "stars" of today have, spinning their stories out of control. 27 years later and I still find this movie to be a silly comedy that doesn't make you feel silly for enjoying. Overlook the lousy ending (Simon's only bad trait is not knowing when to end things. Feels oddly familiar...).

Favorite Scene:

When Chase sticks up the gas station attendant to get the Milk Duds that he's owed by the vending machine.

Favorite Line:

"Chester. You just went through a stop sign."
"I can't help it. I don't like to read when I drive."

Trivia Tidbit:

Paul McCartney wrote and recorded an ultimately unused song as the title track for this movie.

See if you liked:

FOUL PLAY, 9 TO 5, SWING SHIFT

BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE (1972)
Directed by: Milton Katselas
Starring: Goldie Hawn, Edward Albert

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

Back before ideas for movies were coming from television shows, cartoons or previously released movies, the ideas would come from stage plays. Typically they would involve one or two sets, something that pleased the studios in their quest to keep down costs and helped to ensure that a multitude of movies were made. So whenever I'm watching an older movie, I tend to get that feeling like I'm in a theater, watching the actors over-dramatize situations, raise their voices and their physical distress levels so that the people the back rows could understand what was going on. It makes it difficult to cast judgment when I was born in an era of realism in film, with tight close up shots allowing actors to act more with the flutter of their eyelashes than with a grand sweeping gesture of their arm.

BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE is based on a stage play by Leonard Gershe, but it was also made in the time when movies based on plays were a dying breed. This makes it unique in telling the story of a blind man whose domineering mother is afraid to let him live on his own in San Francisco. While there are only a couple of sets and the action is mainly centered in his apartment where many grand sweeping arm gestures take place, there is also the added element of getting close up to the actors and watching them act. The biggest presence in that factor being Hawn, casting her doe-eyed gaze up at Albert's painfully gorgeous Ken doll visage. In between her stage play type declarations, it is Hawn that slows down and does the strongest acting with the least amount of motion. Eileen Heckart as Albert's possessive mother is also great with her gravelly voice, condescending to everything that Hawn has to say. She went on to win the Best Supporting Actress award the year that this movie was released.

This is overall a great movie about personalities at war. Being born to love and commit or being born to flight, and how the two intermingle. The scenes between Hawn and Heckart are priceless, with Hawn giving off this air of having lived longer than she's been around in years, dismissing the negativity that Heckart throws at her in a way that most young women wouldn't have been able to, all without being overtly disrespectful. I imagine that this movie would be both a hard and a tough sell in today's market. For those who are looking to have their information fed to them, with loud action and little plotline, this movie will most likely be seen as, well... too much like a stage play, with simple backgrounds and minimal action (and yet oddly enough, just as little plotline). For those who are addicts to the less-is-so-much-better-than-anything-of-value-happening genre (although I can like those as well too, just not with the intense exclusivity that some are clutching onto for dear life) this movie might be appealing but a little stiff with its adherence to the old-school line of acting/directing. You know, the stage play variety. I say just stop having so many pre-conceived notions of what you're going to watch before you watch it. And for once, listen to your parents when they suggest a good movie. (Thanks, mom.)

Favorite Scene:

When Hawn is handed an apple by Eileen Heckart and pauses to reflect on the situation seeming "familiar."

Favorite Line:

"Look. You're going to have to start laughing at something or people are going to think you're a lesbian."

Trivia Tidbit:

Eileen Heckart and Paul Michael Glaser reprise the roles they created in the original 1969 Broadway production.

See if you liked:

BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, CATCUS FLOWER, THE GOODBYE GIRL

What is up with second and third generation celebrities automatically being guaranteed a place in cinema? Normally the whole apple, tree, far from thing only occurs when it's not a good thing. I'm just saying...

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