So I finally caught up with a film I’d been meaning to see for years, Jonathan Demme’s 1986 cult favorite Something Wild. I have to admit, I’ve never been much of a Melanie Griffith fan and never understood the minor hubub about her in the late 80s. After seeing this movie, I both get it and am puzzled further.
When we first meet Lulu (or Audrey), she’s the fetching quirky brunette pictured above, who essentially kidnaps nerdy Jeff Daniels (who’s just been promoted to VP in his accounting firm) and takes him on a wild road adventure.
But about halfway thru she dyes her hair to become the familiar late 80s, short quaifed blonde Melanie that we all knew. And I never got. Even more disturbing is that by the final scene, Melanie meets up with hero Jeff Daniels, after finally escaping her psychotic ex-con husband (Ray Liotta – in easily his best non-Goodfellas role), virtually unrecognizable not as the quirky, funky brunette we were first drawn to, but instead as a demure blonde with matching white gloves and hat, purse matching her dress.
So the message here is that wild funky gals can be fun, but no sensible man would actually find one as a soulmate or wife. Again. It reminded me – in how the ending transformed the heroine from something attractive and unique into something prim and proper and, quite frankly, boring and passive… wallpaper if you will – of one of my favorite movies from the 50s (until it’s similar copout ending for the heroine of course), Bell, Book and Candle.
The premise of this little Jimmy Stewart/Kim Novak comedy from 1958 is that witches live in Greenwich Village – and indeed all over the world among us – but none of us realize it. It opens as new tennent and book editor Jimmy Stewart inadvertantly meets several witches in his building, the most powerful – and attractive – being Kim Novak, on Christmas Eve, as Jimmy is on his way to meet up with his fiance. Witchy Kim casts a spell which persuades Jimmy to bring his fiance to the witch’s hangout – a nightclub called The Zodiac – and predictably gets Jimmy to fall in love with her and dump his fiance (did I mention that they are getting married the next day – Christmas Day?) and go off with her.
The setup is beautifully executed through out much of this slightly uneven, but overall very enjoyable late 50s comedy. Beatnick jazz, is of course, played at the zodiac (featuring the Condoli brothers on trumpet and witch Kim’s brother, Warlock Jack Lemon on bongos), and crazy 50s exotica decor paints both the club and the witch’s residences. Novak even runs a store out of the first floor of their apartment building that sells all sorts of exotica totems from all over the world (pacific rim masks and the like).
But the rather abrupt ending of the movie sees the all black wearing Novak give up her witchhood (witches can neither fall in love or cry, but if they do fall in love they lose their power, poor devils) for Jimmy. And suddenly she is wearing all white and her store only sells glass flowers and bright, “respectable” items. And then a movie I’ve enjoyed – even loved at times – for the previous 102 minutes completely turns on me in the last 4 minutes.
So I guess the message from hollywood is – as always – if you find someone you like and you actually get them, make sure to change anything about them that isn’t hollywood’s idea of the cultural ideal and erase all the quirky stuff that made you like ’em in the first place. Otherwise, they just ain’t marriagable material.