I Saw A Film!
Three desperate housewives, a popular theme, undertake a scheme to get their hands on money, what else? What’s good about this potentially unwashed pile of laundry is that the individual circumstances are actually diverse and amusingly believable. One has a husband who needs to prove he gave the wife a loan, rather than a gift, and needs to avoid the IRS pricetag. This results in some clever tension between the just-post King Kong Jessica Lang and adoring but broke Richard Benjamin. Fred Willard is the understandable working stiff who can’t afford to take on the responsibility of a family. Only Jane Curtain is a simple jilted wife left for a younger woman, but at the bar she at least admits to not having a great deal of love for her now departed hubby. In many ways the honesty depicted is refreshing, even if played for laughs. Eddie Albert plays a sweet old hippy (though, too old for 1980) a peacenik WW2 vet, which makes me wonder if there were many sympathetic beyond Vonnegut. The old vet moves in because the wife left for a lesbian. This is pretty complex stuff for what feels like a throw-away TV movie.
Synthesizer blasts and funk cover the incidentals as the ladies work out their plan to rip off the mall’s money-ball promotional. The concerns of being caught don’t hold the ladies up long. But it’s a comedy and being hookers is disposed of rapidly as the college girls give it away for free! Sure! At least a silly mall promotional isn’t a bank, and doesn’t require the skills of master thieves. Considering a few years earlier a film featuring southern belles, bank robberies and dynamite was a perfectly acceptable tale, this little joke works just fine. This particular story is helped along by the upstanding reputation and small town connections. Dabney Colman’s cop doesn’t really want to take the ladies seriously as threats, plus, he too is experiencing heartbreak. All in the same canoe so to speak.
We live in an age that is a pendulum swing of self-righteousness away from this era. We seemed, by 1980 to be on a cusp of better understanding of human foibles and desires. We seemed almost able, through a bit of rage and perhaps a waving of a stick of dynamite, or a fantasy heist of a million bucks to almost have something that wouldn’t just be a pro-wrestling outlook on everything from social life to politics. We indulge our outrage too much in modern storytelling. We also leave the table unsatisfied unless grisly murder and plenty of guns are slung around. Granted this is a comedy and while most older nations have a full on history of plenty of civil wars and reversals of fortune, Americans seem unable to compromise on even one. Not sure if that actually fits there, but I promise it’s linked!
Along with this sort of inept self-indulgence and our lack of ability to laugh at ourselves we do literally reach for the pro-wrestlers as champions of leadership. If there was a better example of a degrading of cultural intelligence I’m sure there’s little more we need to point at. Idiocracy is almost too low a bar. Of course, we now have what Woody Allen became and it’s a wholly unexpected and mildly disturbing outcome, but it’s not like his efforts managed to make the world more introspective or open-minded. We like to think we’ve made progress, and we have, but our shrill pitch belies a deeper lack of self-control and maintained toddler-hood that absolutely must be defeated if we are to have a culture at all. What we will end up with is nothing but indignation on parade.
Anyway, the money-ball is surrounded by cops, and the theme is fighting inflation. Not just because Fred Willard is in this thing does it feel a bit like a Christopher Guest film.
Free on American Hulu. Of course, the system the ladies devise would clearly only net them about 30 bucks, but it’s 1980 and the money would go a bit farther!