Tag Archives: Hart Bochner

Making Mr. Right (1987, Susan Seidelman)

Making Mr. Right feels a little incomplete. It’s not entirely unexpected as Floyd Byars and Laurie Frank’s script plays loose with subplots–even after the film forecasts its basic structure, it loses track of a lot, and some essential scenes happen offscreen. The subsequent reveals in the narrative (to other characters and the audience) never play for enough surprise value to cover the missing moments.

One has to wonder what got cut.

Director Seidelman keeps things moving over the absences, having structured the picture into two separate parts in the first act. Ann Magnuson runs an ad agency, has a crappy congressman for a boyfriend and client (a delightfully bland Ben Masters); she’s also got a somewhat annoying family and friend situation intruding. Then she gets a contract to promote an android in time to get Congress to continue funding. John Malkovich is the android and the inventor.

The film keeps Magnuson’s life bisected. Even when Malkovich, in either of his roles, crosses over into Magnuson’s personal life–her misadventures with the android, even out on the town, are work stuff–but even when Malkovich is present in the personal life, Seidelman and editor Andrew Mondshein keep it somewhat separate. For example, Malkovich doesn’t really have any scenes with Magnuson and anyone else (outside Masters); but he’s present in some of the scenes. It’s just not somewhere Seidelman takes the film.

And it gets to be a problem in the third act when all of a sudden Malkovich has got a character arc of his own. As the android. The human inventor Malkovich has a second act subplot where Laurie Metcalf is trying to put a ring on it, which just ends up jumpstart Malkovich the android’s character development only to abruptly end it. Making Mr. Right runs almost 100 minutes and feels like a good twenty minutes are missing.

One of the film’s complete subplots–which the film contrives to intersect with the main plot to end the second act–involves Magnuson’s friend Glenne Headly. Headly’s having marriage problems and bunks up with Magnuson, ostensibly to give Magnuson someone to play off at home but the Headly subplot’s too good and overshadows Magnuson’s romance-induced ennui. Headly’s married to soap opera star Hart Bochner–who initially shows up onscreen in his cheesy soap with absurd hair–and Seidelman gets a lot out of having Headly around. Magnuson never gets to be silly, just frantic and stressed. Headly gets to have some fun.

Making Mr. Right is all about its actors–Magnuson, Malkovich, Headly–with Seidelman striving to facilitate as best she can. Malkovich and Magnuson both get some degree of physical comedy and they’re great at it. Malkovich plays the android with more soul than the inventor. The inventor part Malkovich does stiff and deadpan. The android is absurd and sincere. There are some scenes between Malkovich’s two characters–Magnuson drives past a theater showing The Parent Trap–but the film avoids them. Malkovich is only able to get one of his parts out of caricature as a result. He chooses well, but with some more time, who knows what Malkovich and Seidelman could get done.

Magnuson has a similar situation of underutilization, also because of the script. After all the intricate setup, Byars and Frank don’t keep subplots moving in the background. At least, not enough of them to compensate for the changes in the film’s narrative flow.

Making Mr. Right is a solid comedy. Great performances, some great scenes; overall, it’s a moderate success. But with a better third act, thanks to Magnuson, Malkovich, and Seidelman, it could’ve gone further.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Susan Seidelman; written by Floyd Byars and Laurie Frank; director of photography, Edward Lachman; edited by Andrew Mondshein; music by Chaz Jankel; production designer, Barbara Ling; produced by Joel Tuber and Mike Wise; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Ann Magnuson (Frankie Stone), John Malkovich (Dr. Jeff Peters / Ulysses), Glenne Headly (Trish), Ben Masters (Steve Marcus), Polly Bergen (Estelle Stone), Harsh Nayyar (Dr. Ramdas), Laurie Metcalf (Sandy), and Hart Bochner (Don).


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Apartment Zero (1988, Martin Donovan)

Starting Apartment Zero, I couldn’t remember why I’d wanted to see the film. I had a feeling it was going to be something I’d since dismissed and it was–Apartment Zero is David Koepp’s first screenwriting credit. He co-wrote the film. Koepp’s an odd person to look for, since his writing is so vanilla and indistinct, regardless of quality, it’d be like looking for William Goldman. There’s actually a lot of personality to Apartment Zero, but I imagine it came from the director (who co-wrote with Koepp). There’s very little to say in terms of the writing. While there’s some funny stuff, most of its success comes from the direction (the director’s name is Martin Donovan). Donovan has decent composition, but does great work with movement–both moving subjects and moving cameras. There’s a hilarious chase scene and then there’s some other good, fast camera work. The humor in the script tends to fail–except maybe the characters lifted from “Fawlty Towers.” Near the end, most of the humor is in the dialogue and it all falls flat.

Besides the direction, the film looks fantastic. Buenos Aires is apparently a wonderful place to shoot a movie. It looks warm and foreign, but still somehow familiar. The cinematography is perfect, with the low budget, grainy film stock creating a mood. Also on the technical end is the sound design. Apartment Zero has great sound.

As for the performances, Colin Firth and Hart Bochner… Bochner’s visibly familiar since he’s the jerk in Die Hard, but his performance in Apartment Zero is actually quite good for much of the film. Firth is not any good, but it’s barely his fault. His character–and the film in general (at the beginning, it reminded me–ha ha–of Delicatessen)–has no depth. It’s absurd, in the waste of time sense of the word. It’s also one of those wonderful films where, once it finds its below average level, it still manages to get worse in the last five minutes. It doesn’t exactly have a surprise ending, but it’s got something close. Whatever it’s called, it’s damn lame.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Donovan; screenplay by Donovan and David Koepp, story by Donovan; director of photography, Miguel Rodriguez; edited by Conrad M. Gonzalez; music by Elia Cmiral; production designer, Miguel Angel Lumaldo; produced by Donovan and Koepp; released by Skouras Pictures.

Starring Hart Bochner (Jack Carney), Colin Firth (Adrian LeDuc), Dora Bryan (Margaret McKinney), Liz Smith (Louise McKinney), Fabrizio Bentivoglio (Carlos Sanchez-Verne), James Tefler (Vanessa) and Mirella D’Angelo (Laura Werpachowsky).


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