Trifecta #10: The Movies Presents…The Theater



by: Jeremey Gingrich

You can’t go out and party every weekend, so on those nights you want to take it easy, has put together a bi-weekly column to help you with your movie selection. The Trifecta is a recommendation of three movies that set a mood, that showcase an actor or director, that acquaint the viewer with a geographic location, or maybe even have some obscure link like a Best Boy or Key Grip.

With Rob Marshall’s NINE coming out just in time for Oscar consideration, after winning the Oscar for Chicago back in 2002, there’s no question that Hollywood has gotten its groove back when it comes to putting on Broadway productions. These work to quench the thirst of those theater-lovers who want to see the full production, but maybe can’t make it to Broadway or even the traveling companies that hit the various theaters around the country. But for a trifecta, and granted this may be targeted at a small audience, I wanted to put together an evening of films that pay respect to the process of putting on a theatrical production, not just the production itself. These are films that respect the writing, acting, directing and producing talent that goes into putting on a theatrical production, be it great or small, and they are a collection of comic talent that makes for one interesting night that just reinforces the classic adage: “The show must go on.”

Waiting For Guffman

The first movie, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN (1996), was Christopher Guest’s big comeback to the mockumentary after THIS IS SPINAL TAP from 1984, and led to the great follow ups BEST IN SHOW, A MIGHTY WIND, and FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. In GUFFMAN, Guest plays community theater director Corky St. Clair, directing small town Blaine, Missouri’s newest production, Red, White and Blaine, a play about the town’s history. Guest is great as Corky, playing up his part with swishy aplomb, but Fred Willard and Catherine O’Hara were hilarious in their roles as deluded travel agents, and Eugene Levy (always great in Guest’s movies) gets great time as a timid dentist finding his inner thespian. These small-towners get their hopes up when Broadway producer Mort Guffman is supposed to watch their show, and they all get carried away with dreams of the Great White Way. We’ll start the night small with a movie about community theater.

Bullets over Broadway

The second leg of the trifecta was actually a tough one, as the recent movie HAMLET 2 would have been a pretty damn funny addition to this triumvirate. Steve Coogan did a great job and the musical numbers in his sequel to the Bard’s classic (“Rock Me, Sexy Jesus”) are enough to entertain countless theater fans. However, as a member of the Woody Allen faithful, I instead select BULLETS OVER BROADWAY. This movie got Dianne Wiest her Oscar for Supporting Actress, playing the diva older actress in the movie’s play God of Our Fathers. John Cusack stands in for the Woody Allen character, the play’s writer who gets Broadway financing from a gangster who wants his girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) to star in the play. Chazz Palminteri is great as the moll’s bodyguard, who rewrites the play to make it better, and takes care of a casting problem. The movie ends in typical Allen fashion, with Cusack trying to make up with his girlfriend (Mary Louise Parker) who’s sleeping with Rob Reiner. Yeah, she left John Cusack for Rob Reiner.

Noises off

The last film, NOISES OFF, has been one of my comedy favorites for a long time, and with the cast they lined up it’s easy to see why. Start off with Michael Caine, who proved his comedic genius in DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, as the play’s director. Carol Burnett plays Dottie, the lead comic actress in the play, romantically linked with many of her costars, a theme throughout the movie which leads to great conflict and comic situations. Nicollete Sheridan runs around most of the film half naked and Marilu Henner is in the show (who I’ve loved since “Taxi”) which is great but they also have…wait for it… Mark Linn-Baker – yes, Larry Appleton from “Perfect Strangers.” The other key members of the cast are no longer with us. Denholm Elliot (Marcus Brody from INDIANA JONES) stars as an old theater actor in this, his last film. Christopher Reeve finished this three years before his horse riding accident, and John Ritter does his trademark pratfalls perfectly. This is a hilarious movie, utilizing its cast’s strengths to perfection, with belly laughs throughout…but also with a sadness at these lost actors.

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