FILMS

The chemistry of love

LAWRENCE O'TOOLE,L. O'T.,BRIAN D. JOHNSON,1 more... April 6 1987
FILMS

The chemistry of love

LAWRENCE O'TOOLE,L. O'T.,BRIAN D. JOHNSON,1 more... April 6 1987

The chemistry of love

BLIND DATE Directed by Blake Edwards

FILMS

Deflating the pretentions of careeroriented baby boomers is popular fare in Hollywood comedies. In the latest example, Blind Date, young management executive Walter Davis (Bruce Willis) is set up with an attractive stranger, Nadia Gates (Kim Basinger). In short order, she not only wrecks his evening, she nearly ruins his life. But at first Walter is so delighted to meet her that he forgets the admonition of his brother, who arranged the encounter: “Whatever you do, don’t let her drink.” Walter does— and a drunken Nadia is a monster unleashed.

Lapsing into a broad Louisiana drawl, she enters a restaurant—where

Walter’s boss (George Coe) is hosting a posh dinner for an important new Japanese client—and promptly starts nibbling at a huge floral arrangement. Walter’s hopes for making a good impression sink even lower as Nadia squirts champagne in the boss’s face and Walter accidentally knocks the wig off the wife of the Japanese magnate. When Walter asks if he is fired, his boss replies: “If we were in a war, I’d have you shot. Twice.”

The idea behind Blind Date is clever. The film plays on the fear that behind the facade of a new romantic liaison some hidden and horrible quality is quietly lurking. Nadia explains her drinking problem to Walter as a mere “chemical imbalance.” But the events it triggers lead to the demolition of Walter’s car and his arrest on an attempted murder charge. Even so, the film is not nearly as funny as it promises to be. Director Blake Edwards ( Victor/Victoria) is usually one of Hollywood’s defter hands with farce. In Blind Date, he resorts to excess to cover gaping holes of inspiration. It is not enough that Nadia’s psychotic exboyfriend, David (John Larroquette), drives his car into a pet shop; he also drives it through a paint store and a flour factory.

In his first major film role, Willis, the male lead from TV’s popular Moonlighting series, has little to work with. But he uses the meagre script to display an easy grace with physical comedy. His morning-after hangover is especially convincing: most viewers will

recognize and feel his pain. But Edwards has done the beauteous Basinger a great disservice. He hides her face behind a brunette hairdo with unflattering bangs and buries her simmering sexuality beneath a sexless red tailored suit.

Choppily edited and schizophrenically paced, Blind Date does contain some choice comic moments. But its filmmakers needed to take their initial concept—a gorgeous date getting mean on liquor—and flesh it out with a story and real characters. For all its intermittent hilarity, Blind Date is flighty and overblown—all dressed up with nowhere to go.

LAWRENCE O'TOOLE

THERESE

Directed by Alain Cavalier

Thérèse Martin of France, later known as the Little Flower of Jesus, led a quiet, uneventful life. Her death from tuberculosis at 24, in 1897, did not have the drama of martyrdom. But in 1925 the simple French nun was canonized a saint. Director Alain Cavalier’s restrained and beautiful film Thérèse—with Catherine Mouchet in the title role—miraculously captures the saint’s purity of spirit in a series of tableaus chronicling her life at a Carmelite convent. Both the settings and style are spare, with one scene fading out slowly into another. And each image, shot by Philippe Rousselot (Diva), looks as if it were lit by angels.

In Mouchet, Cavalier found the perfect Thérèse. She humanizes the character: she has a sense of humor and her mystical rapture has clear overtones of the erotic. Although the filmmaker takes a detached approach, Mouchet’s plain-looking face has an alluring effect when transfigured by her radiant smile. Her passion for Christ is utterly believable, even to those not religiously inclined. When Thérèse tells the prioress (Clémence Massart) that she wants to be a saint, the prioress scolds the young nun for her pride. “Then I will be a quiet, secret saint,” Thérèse replies. Her disarming candor allows the audience to understand her holiness. Thérèse is unique: it creates an aura.

L. O'T.

KEEPING TRACK

Directed by Robin Spry

They meet on a train travelling south across the Canada-U.S. border. Daniel (Michael Sarrazin), a workaholic anchorman at a Montreal TV station, is embarking on a long-deserved vacation. Mickey (Margot Kidder), an ambitious bank executive, is heading to a business meeting in Manhattan. On the train, they are the sole witnesses to a robbery and a murder. Once off the train, they discover a suitcase full of money, a body—and a conspiracy that involves a bank president, a Canadian cabinet minister, the RCMP, the CIA and the KGB. In the James Bond tradition, all the fuss revolves around a tiny gadget that could upset the balance of power and trigger a world war.

Keeping Track contains all the clichés of a formula thriller. But director Robin Spry, best known for his awardwinning documentary Action: The October Crisis of 1970, adds fresh accents to a familiar recipe. Portraying his native Montreal with authenticity and affection, Spry exploits a panoramic range of locations. His characters play a fast-moving game of hide-and-seek that takes them from the marble halls of Montreal’s financial district to its underground malls, from the cobblestone alleys of the Old City to the rooftop tenements of St. Henri. And with one chase scene after another, the action rarely lets up.

Keeping Track is escapist fantasy rather than nail-biting realism: cartoon-like twists of the plot frequently derail credibility, and the villains tend to be stock characters obsessed by power and greed. Mickey’s smug superior at “the Bank of Lower Canada,” portrayed by Alan Scarfe, seems barely human. Offsetting the action is a nattering stream of repartee between Canadian stars Kidder and Sarrazin. But despite earnest performances by the actors, the script’s attempts at romantic comedy are heavy-handed.

In the Hollywood tradition of couples thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, the liaison between hero and heroine begins with abrasive banter, then melts into romance. Fleeing their pursuers, they call on hidden reserves of ingenuity. Daniel summons a camera crew to stage a diversion that he calls “the old end run.” Meanwhile, Mickey reveals that despite her executive pedigree, she has a delinquent past: she proves equally adept at breaking into computer files or hot-wiring a motorcycle.

Keeping Track's style is brazenly conventional, but Spry uses his documentary experience to bring a certain irony to the high-gloss formula. The movie is about “keeping track” of events that stubbornly resist documentation. A video sequence near the end glibly summarizes every turn of the complex plot in a crisply edited television news clip. Entertainment without pretence, Keeping Track never loses sight of its target.

BRIAN D. JOHNSON

BURGLAR

Directed by Hugh Wilson

Whoopi Goldberg once claimed that she could play anything, from a man to a speck of dust. In Burglar she plays a role not much larger than the latter: Bernice Rhodenbarr, a retired cat burglar blackmailed back into business by a crooked cop. Witnessing a murder while hiding in the closet of one of her burglary victims, she herself becomes a suspect and must unravel the tangle to save herself. Lacking good, spunky material, Goldberg relies on her molassesthick voice and baleful glances. And the film, with its obligatory car-chase scene, bears signs of having been produced by a committee of bored Hollywood idea men.

Certainly, the result is a pushy, strained and somewhat desperate mix of comedy sketches. Goldberg assumes some amusing disguises, including an elderly cleaning lady and a junkie. And Bob Goldthwait, as her crazed and wild-eyed best friend, Carl, delivers an inspired routine as a psychotic delivery boy. But once those scenes are over, not much remains. Director Hugh Wilson (who did the first Police Academy) takes such a generic approach that Burglar could be the first of a series of formulaic sequels. On the strength of her past work as a stand-up comic, Goldberg deserves better. If she keeps making thumb-twiddling movies like this one, she is unlikely to get it.

L. O'T.