Sunday, May 31, 2020

he’s not a person

It occurred to me today that I have never seen a production of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying and I am not even sure what it's about. This thought came to me when I realized I am not entirely sure I can remember the plot to today's movie: The Secret of My Success. I knew it involved Michael J. Fox, and I think there's a boss lady who wants to sleep with him, but I was also conflating the film with For the Love of Money and was excited to see a young Gabrielle Anwar because I had the biggest crush on her for a few years there... after this movie was in theaters, after this movie was something we had on VHS and we watched it more than a few times--
(But, if you're paying attention, you should know that the current theme in this blog is movies that were "fixtures" in my "childhood" but I'm 11 now in 1987, and in retrospect, things keep blurring into my teenage years, my 20s, my 30s, and the present, but who want's to talk about the present? Pandemic. Riots. Dictators. And, I've got a wish list on Amazon just for the coming apocalypse... Because I grew up in a cult bent on eschatology and the one thing I have always been at planning ahead for (at least in my head) is every fucking thing falling apart. Entropy, destruction, Armageddon, just the end of another day that went strange or went as you expected. As I expected. Same shit different day, or "anything different is good" and all that, as I'll be watching Groundhog Day again in a couple days, and I am kinda looking forward to it. 
Because, comfort? Maybe.
I mean, it's nice to know that something like a fixture still exists in my life--)
--and I can't even remember what this particular fixture--The Secret of My Success, that is--is even about. I am hoping it's about sexual harassment, but I think it's more comedic caught-between-two-women, but the woman on the non-boss side isn't going to be Gabrielle Anwar, so it won't be as good as the movie I was inventing in my head going into today's blog...

Which, I haven't even pressed play yet, because I wanted to get all that out there before I probably resort to random comments as the movie plays because, really, I do not remember any specifics except at one point a naked woman is covered only by a couple pillows, possibly in a poolhouse.

The description on HBO MAX says:
Goodbye, Kansas... Hello, New York! In this sharp and sassy comedy, Michael J. Fox plays a pint-sized charmer with big ambitions. Fresh off the farm, he comes to New York determined to climb to the top of the corporate ladder--any way he can.
I don't like the use of "sassy" in there. I am no longer looking forward to this.

I am pressing play.

The opening shots of main guy's parents are unnecessary, but fuck it, cut to 80s music no one remembers, and bus arrival in the big city. And, look, it's Alex P. Keaton and he's fucking quotes Dorothy Gale, because that's not obvious as fuck.

And then, I'm imagining covering this movie like I cover, say Annihilation on my podcast Annihilation, and all these random shots of city people under the opening credits would be a nightmare and a waste of time, because that shit (I assume) has nothing really to do with the plot to come.

As Alex P. Keaton interviews for job after job, I think I just remembered what is going to happen. Like riding a bike, The Secret of My Success returns to me. He is going to get like a mailroom job or some lowly shit, and then he switches outfits and pretend he has a better job than he actually has until people start believing it. I think this is that movie...

But then cops just shot up the phone booth where he's making a phone call because this movie is trying for satire I probably didn't get when I was 11 and saw this for the first time, and you know that bit where I said I was no longer looking forward to this? Yeah, fuck that. I'm in.

He lives in a tiny apartment with cockroaches, and we get a flashback to him telling his parents he's only ever going to return to Kansas in his own jet, and I'm reminded (not for the first time today, mind you) of my time in Tennessee (1 month) and Arkansas (3 months, but was supposed to be indefinite) and how moving off to some other state completely transforms your life. But, I did it (allegedly) for love, and whatever this guy's name is, Alex P. Marty McFly J. Fox, he did it for fucking capitalism, and I do not approve of this reasoning.

Wait, his name is Brantley? What the fuck kind of Kansas farm family names their kid Brantley? That should be is made up name when he pretends to be New York high society or whatever the fuck...

And, oh my god, this just turned into some really creepy fantasy sequence with Helen Slater drinking water in slow motion and then wearing a dress and marching in like she's Billie Jean again, but less rebel, and more awful fantasy that a guy like Alex Prantley Keaton would have at a fucking drinking fountain.

And then he's deconstructing the way Pemrose does business and casually staring at Slater's Christy from a distance... But then, he has to drive Vera somewhere for work and he isn't a trained driver so he makes conversation like this is fucking Uber and not a company car, and that freaking song from Ferris Bueller over extreme closeups of Ver putting on her lipstick (which is fine, because stalker boy Alex can see that, but then closeups on her legs, which he cannot see from the front seat, and I guess her took her home, but the only Litchfield in New York is 237 miles form New York City. Litchfield, Connecticut is only 108 miles. But, nevermind the distance and why random mailroom kid would get stuck with this job, no matter if his uncle owns the company and gave him the job, he's in the pool with Vera and she pulls off his shorts but the skintone trunks he's still got on under that are really obvious, which makes the moment quite horrible--this woman who is clearly above him at the company just talked him into a pool and then removed his clothes without consent, but Fox couldn't be bothered to actually get nude for the moment, so it barely matters... But then I wonder if the image was clear enough on VHS to notice that.


And then, it turns out that Vera is married to the boss--Brantley's uncle--and Brantley has to make a run for it, and before he gets chase off by a Doberman, there's that moment I remembered with the pillows, and dude just fucked his aunt, but CUT TO the city and we really get an 80s love song playing as Brantley fantasizes about taking over an empty office and I'm not sure I care. I mean, he works the mailroom--I've done that--he runs around with a cart of deliveries--one of my favorite jobs ever was doing just that but delivering and picking up books for the library at a law firm in downtown Los Angeles, and listening to talk radio all day in my earbuds, because I was constantly on the movie and entirely contained in my own little world at the very same time. And, I didn't need an office, though maybe that would have been nice, because I had the entire law library to myself most of the time. Had a great view from the tallest building in the city.

But, this movie is aiming for some weird romantic comedy twisted together with a gender-switched sleeping-with-the-boss plot, and really Brantley is going to get fired for not doing his regular job, while pretending to do another job, or maybe the satire's angle is that he can do both these jobs because offices are actually that inefficient. But, I'm just reminded of that "Double Date" episode of Family Ties in which Brantley P. Keaton has two prom dates and fucks it all up. And then I'm thinking about Working Girl because at least there she doesn't jut invent an entirely new person, right? And she doesn't come across as a creepy stalker every time she goes near Harrison Ford.

And then there's business business business, and I guess in 1987, we're just supposed to assume that Carlton Whitfield (née Brantley) knows what he's talking about, and of course the real bosses who want to make cuts are clearly evil because this is Reagan's America, and you have to build build build, or something.

And, he's conducting the sounds of sex from next door and I love that I saw this movie when I was 11 and my mother was probably embarrassed as all get out when he climaxes by opening his can of beer, because blatant sexual metaphors belong in mainstream comedies, and really, it's a little sad that this late in the 80s, we're not getting more casual nudity and sexual capers...

Cue, Auntie Vera arriving at Brantley's tiny apartment, and CUT TO Uncle Boss Man hitting on Billie Jean which is, you know, clearly morally wrong, even though we are not immediately as horrified by Auntie Vera coming to Brantley's, or maybe that's progressive for '87. By the time I'm writing about it, we're on to new scenes, and I'm marveling at Brantley's choice to not only switch outfits in the elevator but specifically to switch out his socks, because while the higher ups might notice white socks, the mailroom guys are not going to care if he wears black socks. Hell, he shouldn't even be changing his pants, and could probably get away with not changing his shirt... I write as he arrives with the wrong pants for a meeting and immediately gets noticed, so I guess they're saying that would matter, but I've been teaching in blue jeans and T-shirts for years because I don't much care for dress codes.
 
 
 
 
 
And, then the movie has like 30-40 minutes left and I get distracted because how does this thing have that much plot left?

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