Oh, Deena Jones! Hear my prayers. I told myself that I would never again watch this movie, but something drew me in as does most Cybill Shepherd movies. A complete misfire right out of the cannon, Cole Porter immediately flipped about 17 times in his grave when it was released on the public. So, here we are once a-gain. AT LONG LAST UGH.
In the 70's, Peter Bogdanovich was unstoppable, well up to a point. Everything was going great. He had the remarkable TARGETS and the three, count THREE, masterworks under his belt. The Last Picture Show, What's Up Doc? and Paper Moon are still very relevant today. But then he got Cybillized and that ain't never a good thing. Daisy Miller is really good if you enjoy watching people walk around and doing boring things for two hours. But it would be AT LONG LAST UGH that would send him down the spiral of Hollywood nightmares. And he rated it G! You know for kids.
As the credits roll, in all their The Great Gatsby font, over a musical box of two bronze couples dancing, you can hear the the notes of the beautiful compositions of the late and great than Gatsby, Cole Porter hanging in the air. The motion picture experiment of AT LONG LAST UGH was an audacious one. Take two actors that can bump it like a trumpet ( Madeline Khan and Duillio Del Prete) and two that sound like someone is beating them with a trumpet (Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd) and toss in fucking Eileen Brennan, who repeatedly scares the hell out of me and pulls focus every time she is on the screen. Brennan's singing reminds of a the sound you hear when a squirrel hits a live power line. But making all the cast sing LIVE!!!! was its boldest challenge and its scariest.
The film opens with Madeline Khan (so far so good) singing what is one of my favorite Cole Porter songs, "Down In The Depths (On The Ninetieth Floor). The song is a real scorcher. Khan treats it like a Mel Brooks number and musters up a little emotion, but definitely goes for the yuks. She ends the song by dumping a cocktail on herself. Life is too short to be wasting a good cocktail. Mads beau is bored with her drinking and so am I.
Next up, Cybill Shepherd appears and she is stunning. There is no doubt, she is one of the most beautiful women in 70's cinema. Next to Stockard Channing that is. Her best friend/servant/lady in waiting, played by Brennan, follows her around smoking cigarettes and giving major face at every single person, thing or animal she comes across. Private Benjamin knows what I am talking about.
The movie get really good when blazing hot Burt Reynolds shows up. And in a tux! Burt does it right. He shows up and looks gorgeous, barely attempts to sing his songs and smacks and pouts throughout the movie. Not a problem.
Burt and Mads meet after she has a, GASP!, sober traffic accident. He proclaims, "I'm a heir" and they look bored. If you can't love the one you want just love the one your with. Cybill is out at the horse track in a Polka Don't outfit and yells at everyone. The cast bust into "You're The Top" just as you were forgetting you were watching a musical. "YTT" is classic Porter song and it is handled like a number that had gotten filmed but didn't get cut out. 30 Minute Mark! DAMN THAT WENT FAST!
The entire cast is off the theater. I think they are seeing something called Once Upon A Time, but I like to think they were going to opening night of SIZZLE. This is a great opporunity to pack a bunch of Cole Porter songs in. Usherettes dance, there's a screechy version of "Find Me a Primitive Man" and a little Ann Miller tribute (as it should be). Then is it time to go ON THE TOWN! Cybill's character is kinda like Ke$sha in her 30's. She's hot and dangerous. She is that girl that you want to go to the party with, but once you have been there with her for a couple of hours, she turns into the girl that you want to leave at the party. She could totally burn the house down or do the whole football team. RUN! They have a party at rich dude's house and you know you have had a kicking when the butler is hung over the next day! Cybill proclaims that is a four cucumber day. Whatever that means. But I do like cucumbers.
We hit the hour mark and the movie morphs into Ken Russell's GOTHIC as the the cast descends upon a mansion for a weekend of drinkin', singing Cole Porter songs and not trying to murder each other as they swap partners. Eileen Brennan and the butler ruin "What A Swell Party This Is" as the couples lay around and show you how hot being bored can really be. Everyone falls in the pool and there are a couple of really good Titanic jokes. I love a good Titanic joke. "Just One Of Those Things" is treated like a piece of crap and there is a lot of sitting and singing. I guess when singing live, motion will fuck it up.
We hit the 10 minute wrap up and we get a mysterious phone call, another BIG party and some swingin' couples a ton of nothing and at long last the end.
Just like the slogan for the yearbook in my junior term of high school, the movie ask, "What's the point?" Brilliant. So we are suppose to suffer? An experiment on just how much we can tolerant? How blinded can we be by Burt's handsome that we ignore the movie? Questions. Questions. No answers. Something went wrong in the translation of it all. Live singing is hard on film. Unless you are Babs in A Star Is Born. You have to be on your A game and not just try. You must do.
Poor Cole Porter. He just can't chance a break. If you venture into Porter territory rent KISS ME KATE (you will become an Ann Miller fan pronto after "Too Darn Hot" tap number) or the breathtaking and very funny HIGH SOCIETY. Glamour piled upon glamour all set to Porter's music. Just the way he intended.