The Michigan Daily- Monday, December 11, 1989 - Page 11
The princess and the improper
dir. Susan Seidelman
BY MIKE KUNIAVSKY
Some movies with a serious message are funny.
Some funny films make a serious statement. Susan
Seidelman's (Desperately Seeking Susan, Making Mr.
Right, Cookie) new film, She-Devil, promises to be
one of the latter, but ends up being a not-so-funny film
with a not-so-profound message.
The idea for the film is great: take two women, one
a symbol of "normal" America asserting herself in the
world of beautiful people and the other an icon of de-
tached snobbishness, then put their value systems on a
-scale and see who wins. These two leads are played by
Roseanne Barr and Meryl Streep, and guess who plays
Hyped as "the cat-fight film of the season," the film
is so regrettably confused as to what it should concen-
trate on - the comedy or the message - that it never
gets either one of these across very well. This is the
story of the rebellion of an ugly, everyday, "unwanted"
housewife (Barr) against the society that has made her
so, via the destruction of her sneaky, philandering yup-
pie husband (Ed Begley, Jr.) and his mistress (Streep),
an exaggerated embodiment of traditional "feminine"
values who writes romance novels based on personal
experience. Something must have gone wrong in the
transition from the book (The Lives and Loves of a
She-Devil by Fay Weldon) to the screen, with much of
4he plot and much of any message lost in favor of a
series of situational jokes and a story about revenge.
The screenwriters (the same team that made the much
more successful Married to the Mob) have chosen to
concentrate on the ways of Barr's rebellion rather than
the reasons for them. And although they put in a lot of
good humor (don't get me wrong, this is a funny
movie) the filmmakers didn't go the extra step and have
the humor mean something.
Added to this is the surprisingly bad performance of
Streep in her first comedy. Maybe it's all of those
Kramer vs. Kramer's and Ironweed's, but she just
doesn't have an idea of what a comedic actor should act
like. She overextends and overplays the part so much
that we never see any part with which we can relate or
find funny. Barr, on the other hand, is appropriately
deadpan in her wooden role, making her rather ruthless
character simultaneously likeable and understandable.
Many of the good things about the film lie in its di-
rection: the colors, the costumes and the sets provide a
very solid base for the action, and it's fun to watch
Streep's pink world melt away into blacks and whites as
Barr's black and blue life gets pinker and pinker. But it
is this superficial concentration on what is in the frame,
rather than what takes place on screen, that gives the
film its choppiness and confusion. It seems that Sei-
delman gave in wholeheartedly to "form over content,"
often leaving plot ends hanging while showing another
good-looking shot of Streep in pink.
All in all, though, the film's bad points - no mat-
ter how little they fulfill some "ideological agenda" -
are generally overshadowed by its chief good point, that
it's a funny light comedy and a good vehicle for Barr's
SHE-DEVIL is playing at Showcase Cinemas and Bri-
Ruth (Roseanne Barr) has reason to look distressed: her husband Bob (Ed Begley, Jr.) is involved with a
glamorous writer of romance novels. Barr, though, must be smiling inside, since she's managed to out-act
Streep in She-Devil.
Study Abroad Programs
(Spring, Summer, & Academic Year)
Monday, December 11th
Auditorium 3 -MLB -7-9pm
For more information,
The Office of International Programs
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