Friday, September 10, 2021

Against the Crowd 2021: A guest post by Joel


Here we are, day 1 of year 8 in the Against the Crowd Blogathon. This is the crown jewel of this little ol' blog and I'm proud to polish it off and drag it out once again. I can only do that as long as you, dear readers and/or contributors, continue to engage and have fun with it. To remind me that you do just that, year after year, a number of people contacted me and asked if and when was the 2021 version happening. Well, here it is. And thank you so much for making sure it takes place.

With all that, I have a confession to make. Against the Crowd is my blogathon in name only. Super reader Joel is really the ruler of this thing. If you're familiar with Joel, you know he doesn't have his own blog. Every year, he takes over this space for his entry. His entries, all of them, are among the highest viewed posts on this site. Realizing this, I figured I'd relinquish my usual first day slot for him, and get this thing off to a grand start. So, I'm stepping aside and letting him take the reins and give the business to a movie most of us love and sing the praises of one most people who have seen it, dislike. 


All yours, buddy...



Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is an employment-termination specialist for an independent HR consult company. In other words, he flies around the country firing people for businesses who don’t have the guts to do it themselves. He also gives speeches praising the joys of living without emotional connections or excess material possessions while moving from one faceless hotel room to the next. His only goal in life is to earn ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines.

On one of his routine trips, he meets a woman named Alex (Vera Farmiga), a professional who also flies frequently and they do the horizontal hoorah in various cities as schedules allow. Eventually Bingham is summoned to his company's offices in Omaha to meet new hire Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) who has formulated a program conducting layoffs via videoconferencing. Even for someone who spends his days telling people their livelihood is being cut off Bingham senses this is too impersonal and argues that Natalie lacks understanding of the firing process or how to handle emotionally vulnerable people. To illustrate his point Natalie is assigned to accompany Ryan on his next round of terminations and observe the process.


We now enter the part of the movie where we must watch not one, but two emotionally bankrupt robots fly around the country ruining people’s lives and then do so again during the video program test run which is a total failure resulting in the suicide of a terminated employee. That’s entertainment?

Somewhere during all this Natalie’s unseen boyfriend dumps her by text and Ryan, after we must endure him visiting his family with whom he has zero connection, impulsively flies to Chicago to surprise Alex. In so doing he discovers that she is married with children and has only been slamming him on the side. Then she has the gall to call him and blame him for nearly wrecking her marriage! Um…. maybe if you weren’t banging some guy you barely know on the QT your marriage wouldn’t be threatened you faithless piece of gutter trash!!


Somehow this is supposed to make us sympathize with this soulless sonofabitch especially when he hits the ten-million-mile mark and when asked where home is can’t come up with an answer. Boo Hoo! Screw You! Get bent!!

A film full of abhorrent characters doing reprehensible things this pile was praised to the skies as a mordant and sharp comedy. I loathed ever second of it and had to swallow the bitter pill that I paid good money to see it!


 






Let’s talk about Holy Grail movies for a minute. You know the ones you want to see more than any other but for various reasons (most often rights issues) you must go on a years long, sometimes fruitless quest to find until one day by dint of exhaustive searching or just plain luck you stumble on one of them and hope it’s been worth all that toil.

Mine fall into two categories. The first are films of favorite performers, usually decades old, to complete their filmographies that once found can lead to jubilation (even if the film is to put it kindly less than stellar) because I’m one step closer to finishing up! The day I finally found my girl Linda Darnell’s final missing movie-Angels of Darkness-I dropped everything and watched it there and then, regardless that it was in Italian (un-subtitled) which I do not speak! Sometimes you have to settle for what you can get; I was just lucky the plot was easy to follow!!

Then there is the other group. Films of somewhat more recent vintage with some notable aspect, usually the cast or director, that makes it seem intriguing but has apparently vanished into the ether for no fathomable reason. That’s the category Doctors’ Wives falls into.

Why I asked myself would a film starring a group of some of the biggest stars of the day, including several Oscar and Emmy nominees and winners, virtually disappear from existence? Well after finally tracking it down last week I have some idea, but I fell for it anyway.

We open on the well-heeled title group sitting around a country club table where one of the doctor’s wives-Lorrie Dellman (Dyan Cannon) a woman so promiscuous rabbits look at her in awe, announces her plan to sleep with all the women’s husbands in order to report back on each man’s sexual failing. Not long after, while putting her plan into action her husband, the unctuous Dr. Dellman (John Colicos) walks in and pumps a couple of slugs into his wife and her current paramour killing her and seriously injuring the hot to trot doc. The trigger happy Dellman then calls and surrenders to the cops as the news blares out far and wide (without naming the victim) causing all the characters to descend in a panic on the private clinic where the surgeons practice.


 And we’re off on a wild ride of a movie that can’t quite make up its mind what it wants to be. One minute its a wallow in salacious infidelity, the next it’s a story of a wife trying to hide her morphine addiction under the cover of migraines until it’s about a couple trying to patch up their lives after a divorce, but wait now it’s the then controversial story of a love affair between one of the doctors and his head nurse (Richard Crenna & Diana Sands-a fine actress who was felled by cancer at 39 only two years after this film), nah it’s the confessional of a lesbian affair with whichever way the wind blows Lorrie! Until suddenly out of the blue it threatens to become a cop drama…. before turning into a story of blackmail and betrayal!!! Phew! The reason for this dizzying rollercoaster is because what we have here is a deliciously trashy high gloss soap opera straddling two eras.

Made as the death knell of the big studio system was sounding this at times wants to be very edgy and modern including a long, and I do mean lloonngg, surgical episode with graphic footage of a heart operation (that honestly doesn't belong in this type of movie) then at whiplash speed were back delving into libidinous excess in fancy clothes (though some of those clothes are hideous-Janice Rule wears a black and yellow combo that has to be seen to be believed!) Theoretically an independent production it was made in conjunction with Columbia, so the film has that hallmark expensive sheen that was a million miles away from the gritty reality of the coming decade. Everything is color coordinated with the various stars coloring and clothing-even the operating room has blue & white marbleized walls that match the doctor's scrubs!!


Making it all the better is that parade of famous faces that populate this piece of cinematic hokum. Along with the aforementioned Dyan Cannon (lively and gone from the picture much too soon), Crenna, Diana Sands and Janice Rule (who made her screen bow in one of my Girl Week picks “Goodbye, My Fancy” but that was many years and about a million cigarettes before this!) there’s Gene Hackman (the same year as he won the Oscar for The French Connection), Carroll O'Connor on hiatus from All in the Family playing a character light years away from Archie Bunker, the gifted but deeply troubled Rachel Roberts working hard to make something of her standard character, Ralph Bellamy (nearly a hundred films but probably best known today as one of the old conmen along with Don Ameche in Trading Places), George Gaynes (of Police Academy, Tootsie and Punky Brewster fame) and a delightful Cara Williams, much needed comic relief as O'Connor's boozy ex though she does add shading to her role. That's not even mentioning the bevy of other notable performers who flit around the edges of the main story. Between them there’s probably over 50 awards and nominations, none won for this particular opus however!!

Critically savaged upon release (as you can see by its score) the film disappeared quickly despite Columbia beating the big drum. Not hard to see why, the gore crowd wouldn’t care about the melodramatics and the crowd that craved the meller aspect were repelled by the grit. Which begs the question…who went to see it? The answer apparently was nobody!

Still though it’s tonally inconsistent, to put it mildly, it is lush, painless (if you fast forward through that operation!) and loaded with star power so watched in the right spirit it can be a fun, forgettable rainy day guilty pleasure. I’d watch it again in a minute if it hadn’t already, as far as I can tell, disappeared into the vapor. And the search continues!




Tune in tomorrow for Day 2 of Against the Crowd!

10 comments:

  1. I haven't seen the second movie so I can't get mad about that but oh man, I love Up in the Air! Totally appreciate everything that Joel has said about it though, and that's why this blogathon is so much fun!
    P.S. Dell, for my post I've used one of your banners but edited it slightly to fit the dimensions of my usual banners, hope that's ok.

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    1. I know I'm in the minority....which is the point of the blogathon of course :-)

      I've bit my tongue I can't tell you how many times when different people I know have rhapsodized about what a smart, clever film it was so it was great to be able to unleash that pent up venom on it here.

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    2. No worries. Do whatever you need to do to the banners. Glad you'll be back with us.

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  2. Joel nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo I love Up In The Air! lol I haven't seen Doctor's Wives though.

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    1. I'll never understand why but as they say every film isn't for everybody.

      I think you're in the vast majority where Doctors' Wives is concerned, as I said I only just caught up with it recently and I was purposely searching for it since the 70's!

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    2. My sentiments, exactly, lol.

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  3. Love how you dressed this up Dell!

    Terrific pix!! I'm sure it was hard to find snaps from the second flick. I was a bit fearful that all you'd be able to find was a shot of poor Janice Rule in that eye scorching black & yellow outfit but looks like thankfully you couldn't. She was too fine an actress to be immortalized for most people looking so awful! Particularly love the photos you chose to tag each review. :-)

    Reading about the ghastly Up in the Air made me bitter about it all over again but Doctors' Wives was a perfect anecdote.

    Thanks as always for letting me participate!

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    1. Thanks for doing it again!

      I did have to get a bit creative to find pics for the second movie. Glad you like how it turned out.

      Like some others have commented, I'm a fan of Up in the Air, but I most certainly get your point. Great job, as always.

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  4. Hi Joel! Love the picks here and I agree with the Clooney movie because they are not nice people and yet we are supposed to feel for them and I just don’t. I don’t know the second movie but it sounds like. Hoot to watch. Am I bad for thinking that Dyan Cannon was blown away by Cary Grant? Ok that is bad. I really do like John Colicos.

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  5. Hi Birgit!

    Glad you share my disdain for that wretched film!! I was squirming in my seat in anger as I watched it knowing the filmmaker was trying to manipulate my feelings to sympathize with those scummy people.

    I'm not in the least surprised you aren't familiar with Doctors' Wives, it's a rare beast. But I it was a weird delight.

    Dyan Cannon gives a bubbly lively performance, so it was a shame that her role was so brief.

    Colicos played his entitled, devious character really well. I've seen him in hundreds of things but I think this might be one of the most prominent parts he had, usually he was a supporting or guest star on innumerable TV shows.

    Colicos is good but the acting honors were split between Rachel Roberts, Cara Williams and Diana Sands. At the time Diana Sands probably had the most controversial storyline about an interracial romance with her boss, she gets a good spotlight scene that she made sure to get the most out of.

    If you can find it (and as you see it won't be a snap) I think you'd really like it!

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