Tag Archives: Valerie Curtain

Maxie (1985)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Silent film star resurrects.

Nick (Mandy Patinkin) and his wife Jan (Glenn Close) move into a San Francisco home that was once lived in by Maxie Malone (also played by Close) a 1920’s flapper that died in a car crash the night before her big audition and who now haunts the place. She eventually inhabits Jan’s body and with the help of Nick tries to get the big Hollywood break in the 80’s that she missed out on in the 20’s.

The biggest problem is the title character that’s supposed to be amusingly ‘eccentric’, but comes off as obnoxious instead. Her belief that she should be the ‘life of the party’ no matter where she goes and her obsession with becoming a famous star makes her narcissistic and self-centered. She also shows no awareness of social propriety that every other functioning human being does as she throws herself quite literally at every attractive man she sees including married ones, which would be considered outrageous behavior by today’s standards and even more so from the era from which she came. Instead of being a person transported from a different time period she’s more like a cartoonish entity from a completely different universe.

Her affected Jersey-like accent is extremely annoying and why she’d even be speaking in one had me confused. Maxie’s spirit is taking over the body of Jan who does not have an accent. The spirit is using Jan’s legs, arms, eyes, mouth and ears, so then wouldn’t it be logical that the spirit would then use Jan’s voice as well?

Patinkin is equally irritating like the way he puts up with his boss (Valerie Curtain) openly and aggressively coming-on to him at work and for all to see and he doesn’t have her reported for harassment. What’s worse is when she threatens to fire him he begs her for his job even though she should be the one looking for work and not him.

The third makes this dumb script, which is based on believe it or not a novel by Jack Finney who also wrote ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, even dumber by having Maxie get a part in a commercial, but without the benefit of having any resume, head-shot or agent, which casting directors insist is a must to even be considered.  From that she then gets asked to do a screen test for the starring role of a big budget remake of ‘Cleopatra’, but all she did in the commercial was play this lady victim tied to some railroad tracks, so what from that brief performance made the producers of ‘Cleopatra’ think she’d be ‘perfect’ for a starring role in their big Hollywood project?

I realize Close most likely took the part because she wanted the fun of playing two different characters, but Jan is so buttoned-down and shy that she becomes completely transparent making Maxie the only one you remember.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: September 8, 1985

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Paul Aaron

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD

Best Friends (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Writing partners get married.

Richard (Burt Reynolds) and Paula (Goldie Hawn) have been working together as a screenwriting team for many years and have fallen in love in the process. Richard would like to take the next step and get married, but Paula resists afraid that this will ruin their friendship, but eventually she caves to his pressure and they tie-the-knot. Things though get rocky when they visit both of their relatives and when they return to L.A. seem destined for a break-up only to be forced to acclimate when they’re locked in a room and not allowed out until they revise the ending of their latest screenplay.

This film is similar to Romantic Comedy as both dealt with two people of the opposite sex working together as a writing team while romance blossomed in the process. Yet both films missed the mark by not focusing enough on the writing craft and the teamwork needed to get a script written. Only at the very end do we see the two working together, but because it waits so long to get to this point it’s not really worth it. In between we get immersed with drawn out segments dealing with each partner learning to deal with their kooky in-laws, which has been done in many other romances before and is neither fresh nor insightful.

I also didn’t like that it begins right away with them already in-love, which deprives the viewer the chance of seeing how the relationship began, which is usually half the fun. The couple are a bit too lovey-dovey and there’s never any fiery argument between them, which could’ve offered some tension in what is otherwise a flat story with very little that actually happens.

The script was written by Valerie Curtain and Barry Levinson, who based their own real-life experiences of working together and then ultimately marrying on the two characters and it would’ve been nice had they simply been cast as themselves. Hawn and Reynolds are okay but there’s a big age difference between the two and their presence also gives it too much of the glossy, big-star Hollywood treatment where as with Curtain and Levinson playing the roles would’ve made it seem more genuine and original.

My favorite part though is when they travel to Buffalo, New York in the dead-of-winter where they must deal with actual snow and cold and not the fake studio kind. However, Goldie’s parents, played by Barnard Hughes and Jessica Tandy, come-off too much like caricatures playing off the stereotype that everyone that gets old automatically become senile and eccentric. The things that they say and do are more cringe worthy than amusing and nothing that a real senior citizen would ever do.

Their visit with Burt’s parents, played by Keenan Wynn and Audra Lindley, improves a little as they act more normal, but it’s just as unfunny. The film also misses out on a prime comic opportunity as the two are informed that they need to revise their latest screenplay in a hurry and I thought it would’ve been quite amusing seeing them trying to work on it while cooped up in the home of Burt’s parents and trying to block out all the noise and chaos around them, but the film only teases with this idea, but eventually whiffs on it.

The story is unfocused and throws in all sorts of dumb things like Goldie’s sudden addiction to Valium pills that have nothing to do with the main plot. Having the film begin where it ends with the two locked in a room for days and forced to reassess their relationship while going back through certain highlights that the two had through flashback including showing how they first met would’ve given it more of a fragmented narrative and made it seem less drawn-out and mechanical.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 56 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Norman Jewison

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Why Would I Lie? (1980)

why would i lie 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: He’s a compulsive liar.

Cletus (Treat Williams) is a compulsive liar although he says they are simply ‘fabrications’ and tells them because it is his sincere belief that people don’t want to hear the truth and the lies are much more interesting. He gets a job at a welfare agency and gets involved with a young boy named Jeorge (Gabriel Macht) and trying to return him to his mother. The task turns into an uphill battle as the mother is nowhere to be found and relies heavily on Cletus’ lies to get him out of jam after jam. Whenever he does gets caught in one of his ‘fabrications’ he will always say ‘why would I ever lie about a thing like that?’ which quickly becomes the film’s catchphrase.

This goofy movie, which has never been released on DVD or VHS and had only a limited run during its initial release in August of 1980, seems unable to figure out what it wants to be. It starts out as a weird character study before moving into a quirky comedy and then ultimately devolving into a sudsy soap opera.  It’s unique for being filmed on-location in Spokane, Washington and even opens with a roaming, bird’s eye view of the city’s skyline, which has to be both a first and last.

The supporting female cast is the film’s biggest weakness as the characters are poorly written and defined. Valerie Curtain, who plays Cletus’ boss, decides to hire him for the job despite the fact that he clearly says some outrageous lies during the interview. When she becomes aware that he may be doing something improper in regards to the adoption process, she threatens him with legal action, so then Cletus pretends to romance her, which is so corny that it is an insult to any woman that the female character here could ever fall for it. He then meets Kay (Lisa Eichhorn) who after only knowing him for a few minutes invites him back to her place for sex, which even for the swinging ‘70’s seems outrageously forward and reckless. Then later when she no longer wants to go out with him because she’s not into any type of serious relationship Cletus advises her that he is ‘in love’ with her even though he’s only known her for a few days and like a hypnotist snapping his fingers this tacky line is somehow enough to get her to make a 180 degree turn and agree to move in with him.

The film also suffers from some very shallow logic. For instance Cletus is told that the boy’s mother may be in either Boston or Philadelphia, so using that little information he decides to take a trip to both cities in order to ‘search’ for her, which makes me wonder  how was he planning to do that. Will he knock on every door in each metropolis until someone with her name finally answers? I also thought that having the woman he is dating turn out to magically be the mother he is searching for and that she was simply living under a different name was too much of a cutesy coincidence and put this whole thing in the category  of a fluffy TV-movie if even that.

Williams manages to play the title role well enough that he keeps it watchable and even somewhat likable. The real scene stealer though is Macht in his film debut who goes by the name Gabriel Swann here. The kid is really adorable and his scenes with Williams are the best moments in the film.

The supporting cast is interesting, but essentially wasted although Jocelyn Brand (Marlon’s sister) has an amusing moment at the end. Severn Darden is good too as Cletus’ psychiatrist who does crossword puzzles while listening to his patients and then panics when he thinks one of them has jumped out the window. There is also a moment in the film where B.J. Thomas sings a song called ‘Me, You and You’, but unlike ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’, which was famously done in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid this song is not memorable and does not help the film at all.

why would i lie 1

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 8, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Larry Peerce

Studio: MGM

Available: None at this time.