to do a great right, you must do a little wrong
After calling heterosexual romantic comedies cheap yesterday, today I'm watching one that I remember fondly--Two of a Kind. My final film for 1983 in my deconstruction of my childhood experience with film. A reminder: I'm not going back to every film I saw, or the big movies I saw, but specifically the films that I watched and rewatched time and time again as a kid.
Two early thoughts rewatching this film after many years: 1. We're getting a POV shot from God flying through the clouds. That might be quite meaningful later. 2. Charlie (Charles Durning) swiping Earl's (Scatman Crothers) golf ball and nothing coming of it is pretty funny.
Then we're with Zack (John Travolta), because God wants proof that a regular person can be good or he's going to flood the Earth again. Zack owes some guys some money, he's an inventor (and, interestingly, a bunch of his machines in his apartment seem to be working just fine, so I guess he's a good one), Stuart (Richard Bright) threaten to cut off his ears. He robs a bank.
Except, bank teller Debbie (Olivia Newton-John) screws him, gives him useless paper while she takes the cash. And we get the premise of the film. Angels Charlie, Earl, Gonzales (Castulo Guerra), and Ruth (Beatrice Straight) have a week to prove that Zack can sacrifice himself for Debbie.
As the movie plays, I read Roger Ebert's review because that's something I do. He did not like this film. But, a couple details in particular bugged me--"The romance, also, never really gets airborne," he says. In my head, at least, this movie is one where the central relationship feels organic. Hell, maybe it's a little leftover Grease nostalgia but when Debbie flirts with Zack as he's robbing her, it works. The other thing that bugged me, because, as longtime readers know, I like to nitpick people when they're wrong. One of Roger's complaints is that the film's doesn't explain "certain key elements", on of which, he says, is "What, exactly, does Travolta have to do to redeem mankind?" God and the angels have a conversation about exactly that. Travolta has to sacrifice himself for someone else. God demands that it be Debbie, gives them two days. They negotiate for a week. What is wrong there is not a lack of explanation--the explanation is fairly explicit--but that it comes half an hour into the film. Structurally, this makes it plot point one; Zack and Debbie both die and the angels get another shot. But, in terms of the actual story, this is the main premise, far more specifically than God wanting a flood, or even the angels wanting to stop him. It should have come earlier.
Of course, if it had come earlier, I probably would be complaining that there isn't enough character building at the start of the film.
And 33 minutes in, someone throws a cat across the screen. Because, somebody in production thought this scene needed an extra jump scare. Now, that's cheap.
Zack comes for his money while Debbie's roommates are out, the roommates come back, and Debbie chases after Zack, and we're into almost normal romantic comedy territory. The meet-cute was a little twisted, but the central portion of the relationship is pretty basic. They talk about his latest invention--edible sunglasses--they talk about her past job as a waiter and her dreams of being in a Broadway play, he toasts to the play. And Beasley (Oliver Reed) shows up, as does Stuart. Beasley is the devil, Charlie explains what's going on. Beasley wants the angels to fail, even though Charlie insists they both lose if there's a flood. I can see why Roger might complain about "countless unnecessary supporting characters" but as a kid, I thought the whole premise was amusing and a little subversive (though I certainly didn't know that word yet at age seven).
Relationship montage and Newton-John's song, "Twist of Fate" plays. But, their day(s) together mean Debbie misses her final call for the play. Beasley gets them both arrested. Charlie saves them in court. Things happen unrealistically fast. (Debbie will already have a new job later.) Another Newton-John song plays (and fits like it could be a musical, which is pleasantly different from the way songs are used in movies today... And, I just sounded like an old man; back in my day, they put songs in movies to add meaning, not just background noise and all that. I apologize. But seriously, "Shakin' You" feels like a number from a musical with this same plot.
There's a robbery, Debbie is taken hostage. Zack takes a bullet for her. Beasley did it. Oh, SPOILERS.
I'll get to that God POV thing tomorrow.