Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cinematic Gems #5: Old Maid: The Movie

Based on the popular children's card game, 1983's Old Maid: The Movie is a powerful family drama chock full of extraordinary performances and pathos. The film follows the Madison clan, a Midwestern family with more than their share of heartbreak and skeletons in the closet. There's Truman (Jeff Goldblum, at his neurotic best), knee-deep in a midlife crisis, doing his best to keep his job at the pencil factory while he sleeps with the boss' daughter (a then unknown Justine Bateman). Truman's wife, Ivy (Cher), dreams of a different life, one she had to abandon after having twin boys (Noah and Nelson Schmidt). She's been carrying on with the local butcher (MLB fastballin' legend Rollie Fingers, sans trademark mustache), who threatens to expose their affair if she doesn't leave Truman. Add to the mix Truman's alcoholic older brother Frank (Warwick Davis, with leg extensions) and his deadbeat wife Sharon (also Warwick Davis, in a tour-de-force performance), younger brother and amateur sleuth/full-time Fuller Brushman Nick (music legend Stephen Stills) as well as rambunctious cousins Eddie and Hambone (Diving champions Mark Spitz and Greg Louganis) and their talking Labrador (voiced by Cheech Marin). When Truman's father Henry (Eli Whitney, inventor of the Cotton Gin and great character actor) suddenly passes away, his live-in girlfriend Millie (Ernest Borgnine, in a Cable Ace-nominated performance) suddenly faces eviction, and turns to Truman and family to take her in. Brash, grating and sometimes cruel, Millie is a handful to deal with. But who will end up getting stuck with her in the end?

Directed with panache by Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, The Relic) and written by Neuromancer scribe William Gibson, Old Maid: The Movie is a somber, moving look at one family crumbling as they try to keep it together, scored beautifully by new wave band Quarterflash (featuring multiple instrumental versions of "Harden My Heart"). Produced by The Beatles' George Harrison (also responsible for producing Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, a film Harrison described as "really good, but it's got nothing on Old Maid.")

Old Maid: The Movie opened on April 1st, 1983, to critical acclaim, but failed to find much of an audience. Amazingly, two sequels were put into production: 1985's Old Maid II: Maid Older, and 1989's Old Maid III: Getting Too Old For This Shit.

Happy day of fools!

1 comment:

  1. I'm embarrassed to say I got all the way to Eli Whitney before it dawned on me what day it is...