Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Up Close & Personal (1996)

1996's Up Close & Personal is indicative of the by numbers filmmaking of the day. A remake in all but name of A Star Is Born, it is the cinematic equivalent of a big mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows in that it's a warming comforting and somewhat too rich concoction of a romance between FILF (is that a thing? It really should be) Robert Redford and younger model Michelle Pfeiffer. For all those things, it's enjoyable and cosy enough, but when you realise the film began life as an adaptation of the book Golden Girl: The Story of Jessica Savitch, you quickly feel cheated and disenchanted with Hollywood.

Screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, spent eight years working on a script adaptation of the book which detailed the tragic, short lived life of news anchor Savitch with his wife Joan Didion, but found commercial decisions made by the producers of Up Close & Personal meant the vast majority of their vision was abandoned. They jettisoned everything that made Savitch's life so poignant and so much of a disaster; gone were the incidents of her alleged drug abuse that led to an outcry when she appeared incoherent during a news bulletin, her falsehoods about a miscarriage to cover up an abortion, her tragic second marriage that saw her in denial homosexual husband commit suicide, and her premature accidental death at 36 from a car accident. When Dunne challenged producer Scott Rudin as to what his butchered script for Up Close & Personal was now really about, he received the reply that it was about "two movie stars", and they certainly didn't come as bigger and brighter as Redford and Pfeiffer at that time. Dunne would go on to write a book describing his experience on the film, called Monster: Living Off the Big Screen.

And yet...those are the laments for what the film could and indeed should have been. For what it is, this is an effective mid 90s romance that is now distinctive of that ear of late twentieth century Hollywood. It has the stars, the glossy sheen, and it even has the great impact of an Oscar nominated theme song, 'Because You Loved Me' performed by Celine Dion and penned by that songstress with the Midas touch, Diane Warren.

Up Close & Personal is deeply sentimental slush but the ideal thing for certain audience members to settle down to with that very same big mug of marshmallow bobbing hot chocolate and have a bit of a blub with. Me, I'm a sucker for behind the cameras, newsroom based romcoms, as evinced by my HUGE love for Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom and my like of the rather overlooked 2010 film Morning Glory. I have always found Robert Redford to have a unique chemistry that transcends the sexes and any sexual orientation, and it's always good to see him play to the screen persona of the liberal professional that he clearly is in reality. Plus we have as his leading lady Michelle Pfeiffer, who is obviously attractive and - more importantly here for the role - engaging enough, so with all those things considered this has always been rather enjoyable viewing for me, though this rewatch suggests it hasn't held up as well as it may have previously. 

Calling the news station at the heart of the film IBS though is not a good idea given what IBS stands for in the medical world, unless of course it really was your intention to suggest your two hour romantic movie is a touch bloated, in which case - well done!

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