Tag Archives: Annette O’Toole

Cross My Heart (1987, Armyan Bernstein)

Cross My Heart has a significant problem right off. Its gimmick work against the film. The opening scenes establish Annette O’Toole and Martin Short’s leads as they prepare for a date. Each has the help of a second (for exposition’s sake, though it doesn’t make the exposition particularly natural); both actors are appealing, both characters are appealing. The opening scenes set up the viewer knowing the truth about each character, which they plan on hiding from the other.

Hence the title.

Then the date starts. And O’Toole’s really good. She’s often doing these delicate movements while Short’s stuck in a lame romantic comedy. The more she does them, the worse Short gets. The middle of the film is mostly real time on their date and, while his character is believable, Short’s no longer likable. And the film’s gimmick of preparing the viewer in advance backfires. It makes O’Toole the protagonist, which the film isn’t set up to do.

Oddly enough, even though the script’s used up all of its goodwill by three-quarters through, once the actors get to play the characters straight–particularly Short (like I said, O’Toole’s always good)–everything starts working out. The chemistry between the stars is so good, it’s too bad director Bernstein and co-writer Gail Parent wasted so much time on the insincerity (and using it for joke fodder).

Real nice support from Paul Reiser in a small role and nice photography from Thomas Del Ruth.

It’s fine, but the actors deserve more.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Armyan Bernstein; written by Bernstein and Gail Parent; director of photography, Thomas Del Ruth; edited by Mia Goldman; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, Lawrence G. Paull; produced by Lawrence Kasdan; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Martin Short (David), Annette O’Toole (Kathy), Paul Reiser (Bruce), Joanna Kerns (Nancy), Jessica Puscas (Jessica), Corinne Bohrer (Susan) and Lee Arenberg (Parking Attendant).


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Cat People (1982, Paul Schrader)

Cat People is so brilliantly made, often so well-acted, it's surprisingly those elements can't make up for its narrative issues. Screenwriter Alan Ormsby has a big problem–he's got to turn his protagonist from a victim to a villain to a victim. Sadly, he and director Schrader choose to employ the lamest technique possible towards the end of the second act… a revelatory, expository (if nicely stylized) dream sequence. With the Giorgio Moroder score, it seems like a really cool looking music video.

Shame it derails the narrative and People never fully recovers. Some of the final scenes' dialogue is really lame.

But there's so much good, starting with Schrader. He has a few directorial approaches he uses repeatedly throughout the film. First is the way he shoots eyes–his actors appear to stare into the camera (or just to the right of it). It makes the viewer feel like a voyeur. Schrader repeats that theme throughout the film. He's showing these personal moments, which requires excellent acting from his cast. Even Malcolm McDowell, who's playing an extraordinary creep, gets these little moments.

In the lead, Nastassja Kinski is mostly excellent. Once the film loses its rhythm, she's in trouble, but she still remains sympathetic. John Heard's good as her paramour. Annette O'Toole's excellent as the other woman. Ruby Dee and Ed Begley Jr. are great in small parts.

Cat People succeeds because of Schrader's attention to detail. Despite the story problems, a lot of the film is flawless.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Schrader; screenplay by Alan Ormsby, based on a story by DeWitt Bodeen; director of photography, John Bailey; edited by Jacqueline Cambas, Jere Huggins and Ned Humphreys; music by Giorgio Moroder; produced by Charles W. Fries; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Nastassja Kinski (Irena Gallier), Malcolm McDowell (Paul Gallier), John Heard (Oliver Yates), Annette O’Toole (Alice Perrin), Ruby Dee (Female), Ed Begley Jr. (Joe Creigh) and Scott Paulin (Bill Searle).


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Smile (1975, Michael Ritchie)

Smile is the story of the week of a regional beauty pageant in a northern California town. It’s not exactly the story of the pageant, though it does look at some of the contestants, but it also looks at how the event affects the locals.

Bruce Dern gets top billing and he does tie most of the story threads together. He’s a car salesman and the lead pageant judge. His son (Eric Shea) gets in trouble related to the pageant contestants, his best friend (Nicholas Pryor) is married to the pageant organizer (Barbara Feldon). Through Feldon, there’s a lot more with the pageant itself, but no real direct ties. The film’s two salient character relationships are between Dern and Pryor and how they experience their lives and then between Joan Prather (the film’s closest thing to a protagonist) and Annette O’Toole as two contestants who are rooming together for the week.

While director Ritchie is fantastic and Richard A. Harris’s editing is amazing, Jerry Belson’s script is the thing to Smile. He’s got a lot of great jokes, these sad, little realistic jokes. There are a couple moments–usually with the direction and editing helping a lot–of uproarious humor. But Smile is usually very real and very depressing.

Excellent performances from the entire cast, particularly Dern, Pryor, Prather and O’Toole. Feldon’s good too, as is Michael Kidd as the down-on-his-luck Hollywood choreographer.

Smile is wonderful; Belson and Ritchie create a magnificent clash of hope and reality.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Michael Ritchie; written by Jerry Belson; director of photography, Conrad L. Hall; edited by Richard A. Harris; released by United Artists.

Starring Bruce Dern (Big Bob Freelander), Barbara Feldon (Brenda DiCarlo), Joan Prather (Robin Hudson), Annette O’Toole (Doria), Nicholas Pryor (Andy DiCarlo), Michael Kidd (Tommy French), Geoffrey Lewis (Wilson Shears), Titos Vandis (Emile), Dennis Dugan (Logan), Melanie Griffith (Karen), Maria O’Brien (Maria), Colleen Camp (Connie), Paul Benedict (Orren Brooks), William Traylor (Ray Brandy), Dick McGarvin (Ted Farley), Eric Shea (Little Bob), Adam Reed (Freddy), Brad Thompson (Chuck), Denise Nickerson (Shirley), Caroline Williams (Helga), Kate Sarchet (Judy) and George Skaff (Dr. Malvert).


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The Best Legs in Eighth Grade (1984, Tom Patchett)

The Best Legs in Eighth Grade aired on HBO. Apparently, their original programming has gotten a lot better since the eighties.

It’s difficult to describe Legs. Bruce Feirstein’s script seems to be meant for stage–the biggest surprise isn’t just he’s had a career since, it’s discovering he was an in-demand writer at the time–director Patchett might be suited for a sitcom (but nothing as emotive as a soap) and there are only two (cheap) sets.

Annette O’Toole is responsible for every good moment in Legs, except for one Jim Belushi contributes.

O’Toole has some problems with Patchett’s direction, but she overcomes it. She’s outstanding. Sadly, she’s opposite Tim Matheson, whose performance is indescribably bad. Some of it’s the script, but a lot of it’s Matheson. Kathryn Harrold is tepid as the object of Matheson’s lust. Vincent Bufano, in a tiny part, is strong.

Besides O’Toole, Legs stinks.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Tom Patchett; written by Bruce Feirstein; edited by Ken Denisoff; music by Lee Holdridge; produced by Kenneth Kaufman; released by Home Box Office.

Starring Tim Matheson (Mark Fisher), Annette O’Toole (Rachel Blackstone), Kathryn Harrold (Leslie Gibson), Vincent Bufano (T.C.) and James Belushi (St. Valentine).


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