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There Oughta be a Law!

Cher - Suspect

As part of the 1996 Women in Hollywood issue of Movieline magazine, Joe Queenan examined the trend of actresses he considered to be miscast as lawyers.  Queenan imagines a conspiracy starting with Cher in Suspect which leads to Cindy Crawford being cast as an attorney in Fair Game.

Way back in 1987, the ex-wife of future United States Congressman Sonny Bono appeared in the role of a resourceful, intelligent, heavily maxi-skirted lawyer in the film Suspect. The event did not precipitate any spontaneous, transcontinental, bipartisan, pluralistic, multicultural outburst of enthusiasm such as accompanied the release of Working Girl in 1988, Pretty Woman in 1990, Thelma & Louise in 1991 or White You Were Sleeping in 1995. By this I mean that America, having witnessed Cher’s exploits as a dim, dozy public defender hired to represent an odious bag person seemingly guilty of a brutal homicide, did not immediately burst into torrents of rapture, exclaiming, “Surely, this is the role that Cher was born to play!”

On the other hand, Cher’s performance in Suspect did not ignite a firestorm of national derision such as greeted Demi Moore after the release of the preposterous The Scarlet Letter in 1995, or Madonna once the critics took a gander at her work in Who’s That Girl? and Shanghai Surprise, or Sofia Coppola in the wake of her father’s ill-advised decision to give her Winona Ryder‘s part in The Godfather, Part III.

Am I saying that the public enjoyed Suspect? I am not. Am I saying that the American public found Cher credible, believable, persuasive and entertaining in the role of a public defender called upon to represent a bag person who has seemingly committed a brutal homicide with malice aforethought? I am not. Am I saying that Cher’s performance as a lawyer in Suspect directly spoke to the people of this great nation? I am not.

All I am saying is that when Cher, the only female in the history of the universe who could possibly introduce Sonny Bono as the second-dumbest man she ever married, played the part of a public defender in the 1987 film Suspect, the moviegoing public did not immediately erupt in a Vesuvius of disbelief commingled with fury and outrage at the thought of being played for suckers. No, for whatever the reason, the moviegoing public did not confront the powers-that-be in the motion picture industry with an ultimatum stipulating that henceforth all movies featuring female lawyers must bear some tenuous connection with reality, however feeble, however remote–or else they would not patronize their products.

It is impossible to overestimate the artistic carnage resulting from the public’s failure to do so. Why do I say this? Allow me, if you will, to wax philosophical for a few moments here. Not for the first time in these pages have I expressed the heart-felt conviction that everything that takes place in this universe has some hidden meaning and purpose, even Pauly Shore’s career. Things may happen for the wrong reason, and seemingly innocent actions may have disastrous consequences, but things do not just happen. They are all part of a cosmic master plan. Every act leads to the next act. Everything that happens happens so that something else can happen.

So it is with Cher’s appearance as a lawyer in Suspect. Why, one asks, would a serious, well-managed Hollywood studio cast Cher in the role of an adroit public defender when a legion of infinitely more believable actresses–Meryl Streep. Jane Alexander, Christine Land, Anjelica Huston–were overlooked for the part? The answer? Because Cher is merely the warning shot across the bow, the first fusillade in what initially appears to be a skirmish but is actually a war, the first indication of what monstrous atrocities lie ahead if the public refuses to defend itself.

Cher’s casting as a lawyer in Suspect was merely a diversionary beachhead in a much wider offensive, a sort of celluloid Anzio preparing the ground for a full-scale D-Day, an incident at Harper’s Ferry on the way to Gettysburg. Once the public neglected to hold public hearings, town meetings or lynchings to prevent a reprise of such a travesty, the path was cleared for far greater indignities. Let’s recap the official history. Once the public failed to take umbrage at Cher’s soporific performance in Suspect, the dainty, well-groomed Kelly McGillis was immediately cast as a hard-as-nails public prosecutor in the 1988 film The Accused. Distracted by Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning performance as a spunky rape victim, few noticed how ingeniously McGillis had been miscast in the role of a resourceful lawyer, or, for that matter, a resourceful anything.

After that, the floodgates burst. First, Theresa Russell appealed as a savvy public defender in Physical Evidence. Then Carré Otis was cast as a multilingual corporate attorney in Wild Orchid. Next, Demi Moore was cast as a prodigious litigator in A Few Good Men. Then Rebecca De Mornay was cast opposite Don Johnson as a top-flight attorney in Guilty as Sin. Then Julia Roberts was cast as a brilliant law student in The Pelican Brief. All of which led to 1995’s disaster Fair Game, in which Cindy Crawford played an attorney so gifted that she actually managed to nail her prey because of her expert command of the intricacies of federal maritime law.

That’s right, Cindy Crawford played a lawyer so gifted that she actually managed to nail her prey because of her expert command of the intricacies of federal maritime law.

Oy vay.

“Alright, alright.” many readers will interject at this point, “we’ll admit that Hollywood has perhaps gone a bit overboard in its penchant for casting robo-babes as gifted, resourceful, brilliant attorneys. But that doesn’t mean that the American public should be unilaterally indicted for its failure to rebel against this trend. After all, Fair Game was a bomb, while Suspect, Wild Orchid, Guilty as Sin and Physical Evidence vanished without a trace. Moreover, in the three films that did fare reasonably well at the box office, the casting of Julia Roberts and Kelly McGillis and Demi Moore as lawyers was tangential to the ultimate success of the films. For example, Julia Roberts only played a law student–not a lawyer per se–in The Pelican Brief. The Accused racked up decent numbers at the box office because of Jodie Foster’s highly believable performance as a Tonya Harding prototype who wanders into the wrong bar. And A Few Good Men was a success because everyone in America wanted to see Big Jack face off against Tom Cruise.”

I am ready to concede these points, just as I am ready to concede that in the same time frame we have seen other films in which female lawyers were played with intelligence, passion and credibility by actresses as varied as Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Class Action). Jessica Lange (Music Box), Emma Thompson (In the Name of the Father) and Susan Sarandon (The Client). That does not vitiate the essential merit of my argument. Cher was deliberately cast as a lawyer in Suspect as part of a top secret, long-term plot to prepare the public for Kelly McGillis’s absurd casting as a lawyer in The Accused, Kelly McGillis was cast as a lawyer in The Accused to soften the public up for the twin outrages of Theresa Russell as a lawyer in Physical Evidence and Carré Otis as a lawyer in Wild Orchid. This duo was hired to try in vain to prep the movie-going public for the triple outrages of Demi Moore in A Few Good Men. Rebecca De Mornay in Guilty as Sin and Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief. Moore, De Mornay and Roberts were cast in A Few Good Men, Guilty as Sin and The Pelican Brief in a kind of preemptive strike to prepare the public for Cindy Crawford’s role as a lawyer well-schooled in federal maritime law in Fair Game.

crawford - fair game

Anyone who has seen Fair Game can be excused for reaching the conclusion that Cindy Crawford’s casting as an attorney marks the end of this pitiful cinematic interlude, that with the box office disaster wrought by Ms. Crawford this cycle has spun itself dry. Tragically, their optimism is unfounded. No, the casting of the thoroughly unbelievable Cindy Crawford as a gifted attorney in Fair Game marks the final feint in a cunning industry-wide conspiracy to prepare the moviegoing public for the most ludicrous piece of casting of all. Hollywood insiders have assured me that at this very moment, a major studio is secretly preparing a remake of the 1960 classic Inherit the Wind, which pitted the peerless Spencer Tracy against the slightly-less-peerless Fredric March in an unforgettable courtroom drama centering on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. The film, movie buffs will recall, dealt with the epic confrontation between America’s greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, and William Jennings Bryan, an overarching political titan who led one of the most successful populist crusades in American history, and who himself unsuccessfully ran for the White House for decades on end. It is my honest belief that Hollywood is now preparing a $300 million distaff version of Inherit the Wind, to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow and produced by Barbra Streisand, with Elizabeth Berkley cast in the role of William Jennings Bryan and Juliette Lewis playing the part of Clarence Darrow.

Of course, as is so often the case with my theories, could be wrong.

If my elaborate theory about Cher, Kelly, Theresa, Carré, Demi, Rebecca, Julia and Cindy is in fact completely idiotic, what other explanation can we possibly find for their ridiculous miscastings in this string of highly implausible legal thrillers? Personally, I prefer a completely sexist explanation. It goes like this: Hollywood is deliberately making these movies as a way of sending a subliminal message to young females that the law is an ignoble and debasing profession where you are certain to lose your dignity, your integrity, your money, your health, your pants and your soul. In short, that you’ll end up like every male lawyer in this country.

Consider the evidence. In Suspect, a film in which Cher defends a seemingly guilty party, she is nearly murdered and only manages to crack the case by openly colluding with a flirtatious juror (Dennis Quaid). This is a clear cut case of jury tampering, and jury tampering is a felony. In short, Cher’s character is a dirtball. In Legal Eagles, a film in which Debra Winger defends a seemingly guilty party, she nearly gets murdered and only cracks the case by breaking and entering a warehouse where private records are stored. That’s a felony, strongly suggesting that Winger’s character is a dirtball.

In Guilty as Sin, a film in which Rebecca De Mornay defends a seemingly guilty party, she is nearly murdered and only ends up cracking the case by planting fake evidence against her own client. That would get any lawyer in any state of the Union disbarred, strongly suggesting that De Mornay’s character is a dirtball. In Physical Evidence, a film in which Theresa Russell defends a seemingly guilty party, she nearly gets herself murdered and only succeeds in cracking the case by falling in love with her own client, an unforgivable breach of barristerial ethics, strongly suggesting… well, you know.

Here, a personal note. I did not undertake this assignment with the intention of holding actresses such as Cher and Kelly and Theresa up to ridicule. Cast in the proper roles–like biker moms, unsuccessful prostitutes, serial killers or Tom Cruise’s girlfriend–they can be affecting, persuasive and even emotionally riveting. Yet by appearing in roles such as those we have cited here, they merely serve as stool pigeons in a mass conspiracy hatched by people named Herb and Mikey and Zalman to make women look bad. By portraying lawyers who are ethically inanimate, morally tumescent, intellectually sterilized, and too hot to trot with their wife-killing clients, this cadre of actresses does a vast disservice to the cause of feminism. By appearing in substandard films such as these, they send a message to teenage females that the law is the exclusive province of dirtball males, that they’d be better off forsaking their dreams of a career in the law and instead becoming seamstresses, waitresses or ice pick-wielding psychopaths who don’t wear any underwear.

Therefore, as a public service, I have compiled a Home Video Guide to Dud Female Lawyers which should be in every home in America where there are young girls who dream of standing for, rather than behind or atop, the bar.

I hope that my efforts will be appreciated.

Lackluster Lady Lawyers on Film

The Accused — Kelly McGillis plays a hotshot public prosecutor called upon to nail the guys who raped Jodie Foster. When she doesn’t nail them nearly hard enough, McGillis persuades Foster to let her prosecute the guys who cheered the rapists on while they were debasing her. This provides the director with an excellent opportunity to reenact the entire rape scene for the benefit of moviegoers who have never raped, been raped, or cheered rapists while they raped rapists. Exploitation, anyone? Jodie is excellent, but the pinball machines in the room where the rape takes place are more animated than Kelly McGillis.

Moore - A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men — Demi Moore plays a navy lawyer who desperately wants to defend two marines accused of murder. Her superiors decide that the two seemingly guilty marines already have enough problems without getting Demi Moore into the act, so they assign hotshot lawyer Tom Cruise to the case. Cruise spends the entire movie intimating in the strongest possible terms that Demi Moore doesn’t know her ass from third base. An interesting, well-made film strongly suggesting that the Federal Government cannot be trusted, particularly if it keeps hiring lawyers like Demi Moore.

Class Action — Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio plays a hotshot corporate lawyer who must defend an obviously guilty car company against charges that it makes cars that kill people. Representing the plaintiff who is suing the car company is her dad, a bleeding-heart liberal and philanderer played by the irascible Gene Hackman.

Mastrantonio has spent her entire life hating her dad for being a bleeding-heart liberal and philanderer, and has worked long and hard to become a partner in an evil law firm that makes its money by representing evil car companies that make cars that kill people. But at the crucial moment, she betrays her evil client and turns over a key witness to her father. Of all the actresses who play lawyers in this group of films, Mastrantonio is the only one who looks, acts and talks like a lawyer–until she betrays her evil client and turns over a key witness to her father, who will corroborate the company’s malfeasance, something no real-life corporate lawyer would ever do, because all corporate lawyers are evil. The movie does contain one great scene, where Mastrantonio’s mother keels over and dies in the local courthouse in a kind of theatrical, symbolic demise that God should force all mothers of lawyers to experience.

Sarandon - the client

The Client — Susan Sarandon plays a recovering lush and low-rent lawyer who refuses to let her 11-year-old client tell the Feds where a crooked politician’s corpse is buried, because then the Feds would go out and arrest the murderer and the kid wouldn’t have to worry about being killed by the Mafia and the movie would be over. A tedious film, based on a John Grisham novel, that ends in an airplane hangar with the main character flying off to enter the witness protection program–an odd ending for a script which has heretofore moved heaven and earth to suggest that the United States Government cannot be trusted.

Fair Game — Cindy Crawford plays a crusading family attorney who knows more than she should know–perhaps the truth about that gerbil. Invoking federal maritime law, in a scene about as believable as Claudia Schiffer invoking the Dred Scott decision, Crawford threatens to impound a ship owned by an alimony deadbeat, little knowing that the ship is the nerve center of a global thievery ring. Marked for death by the menaced ne’er-do-wells, Cindy escapes in the company of Billy Baldwin, who plays a courageous but slow-witted cop. But the thieves stay hot on her trail, sometimes by impersonating FBI agents, other times by following a string of credit card purchases.

This is exactly the same thing that happened to Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief. Question: Since Cindy Crawford looks like the kind of lawyer who learned everything she knows about the law by buying tickets to movies based on John Grisham novels she didn’t read, and since The Pelican Brief was made in 1993, more than a full year before Fair Game, why does she keep using credit cards and falling for the old bad-guys-impersonating-FBI-agents scam? Doesn’t anyone in bad movies ever go to see the other bad movie that the current bad movie is a carbon copy of, and thus find out that you can’t use your credit card when fleeing bad guys, because the bad guys will impersonate FBI agents who cannot be trusted? Is anyone out there paying attention? Or is it just me? Fair Game does contain one good line, which the harried Crawford delivers to Baldwin: “Stop, those are police cars.”

Thanks, Cindy.

de mornay - guilty as sin

Guilty as Sin — Rebecca De Mornay plays a hotshot criminal lawyer who, for no very good reason, decides to defend Don Johnson, a playboy accused of brutally murdering his wife. Even though Johnson is obviously guilty, because he inherits everything once his wife is out of the way, De Mornay continues to defend him, because it gives her a chance to show how nice she looks in (and out of) tight lawyer’s clothes, and because she probably thinks that if she can just delay long enough, the director will figure out a way for the movie to make sense. A film that strongly suggests that the entire American legal establishment cannot be trusted, Guilty as Sin contains one good line. When De Mornay asks her client why he didn’t wear gloves when he murdered his wife, Johnson sneers, “Killing with gloves on would be like fucking with a rubber.”

Somehow, this seems like the sort of thing Don Johnson would say.

In the Name of the Father — Emma Thompson plays a hotshot, crusading lawyer who defends Daniel Day-Lewis against charges that he and some of his Irish mates blew up a pub in London. The film strongly suggests that the government cannot be trusted. Especially the government of a country that produces people like Emma Thompson.

Jagged Edge — Glenn Close plays a hotshot corporate lawyer who used to be a crusading public prosecutor, but who quit because her partner suppressed evidence that would have gotten an innocent man acquitted. For no very good reason, her superiors decide that she should defend Jeff Bridges, a playboy accused of brutally murdering his wife. Even though Bridges is obviously guilty, because he inherits everything once his wife is out of the way, Close falls in love with him, and gets him off, as he does her.

Then, unexpectedly, she stumbles upon a telltale piece of physical evidence–a typewriter with a busted key–proving that Bridges killed his wife, something that would never happen if he owned a PC. So she stops riding horses with him, stops sleeping with him, and then kills him. Based on a Joe Eszterhas script where everyone in the audience knows that the defendant is guilty, there’s lots of horseback riding, there’s a key piece of physical evidence that gets discovered too late, and the government cannot be trusted.

legal eagles

Legal Eagles –Debra Winger plays a dippy ambulance chaser who must defend the obviously guilty Daryl Hannah against charges that she did what she obviously did. Throughout the film, Winger dresses like a schoolmarm and her voice keeps cracking. So what else is new?

Music Box — Jessica Lange plays a hotshot criminal lawyer who must defend her Hungarian immigrant father against charges that he murdered half the Jewish population of Budapest during the Second World War. Even though Pop is obviously guilty, Lange is deeply in love with him, and gets him off. Then, unexpectedly, she stumbles upon a telltale piece of physical evidence–a music box with a bunch of photos of Pop and his Nazi chums–proving that Dad killed half the Jewish population of Budapest. So she stops allowing her son to ride horses with him, then turns over the damning photos to the Feds, whom she originally hated because they were always using falsified evidence. A Joe Eszterhas script where everyone in the audience knows that the defendant is guilty, there’s lots of horseback riding, there’s a key piece of physical evidence that gets discovered too late, and the government cannot be trusted.

The Pelican Brief — Julia Roberts plays a hotshot legal student, a harrowing reminder that things could be worse in Lady Lawyer Cinema–actresses like Roberts could be playing hotshot legal eagles. A tedious film, based on a John Grisham novel, that ends in an airplane hangar with the main character flying off to enter the witness protection program, an odd ending for a script which has heretofore moved heaven and earth to suggest that the United States Government cannot be trusted.

Physical Evidence — Theresa Russell plays a crusading, hotshot public defender who must defend suspended cop Burt Reynolds against charges that he murdered one of his snitches. Throughout the proceedings, the harried Russell appears to be reading her lines off a Teleprompter. Perhaps the only time in Burt’s career that someone cast opposite him gave a worse performance than he did.

Suspect — Cher plays a crusading, hotshot public defender who must defend Liam Neeson against charges of illegal possession of a concealed brogue. Actually, Neeson plays a deaf-mute in the film, and is cast as a psychopathic bag person accused of murdering a woman who stumbled upon incontrovertible evidence that the Federal Government cannot be trusted, and who was trying to get the information into Oliver Stone’s hands. Ironically, Neeson looks like a roadie for Cher’s ex-husband Gregg’s old group, the Allman Brothers Band, which makes it all but impossible for Cher to convince the jury that he is innocent.

Wild Orchid — Carré Otis speaks four languages and has a degree in international law, but that doesn’t prevent her from putting on a cat mask and screwing a complete stranger while boyfriend Mickey Rourke looks on. The horrifying subtext of this film seems to be that even if you can speak four languages and have a degree in international law and look like Carré Otis, you’re still going to end up with a sleazeball like Mickey Rourke. Hey, just ask Carré.

___________________________________________

Joe Queenan wrote about the Merchant Ivory oeuvre in the November ’95 Movieline.

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Posted on April 9, 2016, in Movieline Articles, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Worst Movie line article yet. Badly written, and the author is openly hostile towards women yet pretends he is supporting the cause of feminism. Actually, I blame the editor or publisher more, for printing this instead of encouraging the writer to take a medical leave of absence and get professional help.
    Plus, his thesis is just plain stupid. Even at the time this was published, the rate of women enrolling in law school was on a steady increase, a trend which started probably in the early 80s. Law was once a completely male-dominated field, and is more or less 50-50 today. It can be argued that female actors portraying lawyers in movies and TV actually encouraged, not discouraged, more women to seek legal careers.
    His fixation on so many irrelevant details gives the writer’s bias away. I’ve lived long enough now to start to get an understanding of what the Moz character was saying in The Force Awakens, about how she had seen those eyes before. I can’t see his eyes, but his writing does give him away. This writer isn’t about supporting women, nor does he care about anyone’s daughters. He’s quite full of himself and he has serious hate issues.

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    • jeffthewildman

      That’s the thing about Joe Queenan. I’ve read some of his stuff before (the Merchant Ivory piece referred to at the bottom was reprinted in his essay book “Confessions Of A Cineplex Heckler”). He can be funny at times. But his prime problem is he tends to get overly smug and develop a superior attitude a lot of the time. Most of his pop culture works are pretty funny. But when he tries to aim higher, he tends to come off as self-righteous. In one of his books, he set out to skewer what he saw as Baby Boomer pretensions. but the superior attitude got in the way and a lot of the time he seemed to be muttering tsk tsk without backing it up. While he wanted to hold up a mirror to what he saw as the boomers failings, he was too self-righteous to hold it up to himself. Likewise, his book on low culture stuff was unbearably smug.

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      • Here are some excerpts from an interview Salon magazine did with Queenan:

        Joe Queenan is a well-paid bastard. For the better part of 20 years, he has made a living being mean in the pages of GQ, Movieline, Spy, the New York Times and countless other publications. He’s a self-proclaimed “full time son of a bitch” who has “never deviated from [his] chosen career as a sneering churl,” and his specialty has been ripping on movie stars and the banalities of American culture. As a cultural critic, Queenan has taken potshots at nearly every trend that has come down the pike. What his criticism sometimes lacks in substance, he makes up for with smartass bile. And when it comes to tearing apart celebrities, he is merciless.

        Your writing makes a lot of people angry. Do you wind up hearing from the people you make fun of or piss off?

        There is this woman in the Boston Globe, Katherine Powers, who just absolutely hates my stuff and always does the same kind of review. She doesn’t review the book. She says, “I hate it so much that I can’t review it.” Which to me is a form of intellectual dishonesty, because your job is to read it and specifically talk about how much you hated it.

        But, she really, really hated [“Balsamic Dreams”]. And when I saw her review I thought, “Bingo. This is great. This is really cool. I hit the target. Some old lefty, movement person in Boston hates the book because I made fun of Jimmy Carter or the old hippies.” It’s better than people liking it. That’s an exhilarating feeling.

        Do you ever feel bad about the fact that you’re basically mean to people for a living?

        I decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to be a nice person. Like all satirists, I basically hate nice people. I hate do-gooders. I loathe Ben and Jerry. I loathe all of those people. So did Molière.

        But, I thought, I’ve been doing this for all of these years, maybe I should try being nice for a change. Who wants to be evil and hated? So, I tried to be a good person for six months. One of the things I did was set up a Web site where I apologized to all of the people that I’ve been really mean to. Though I must say that I went out of my way to reaffirm my dislike of certain people. You would never apologize to Geraldo for anything.

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    • It seems to me that he thinks a little too much of how smart lawyers have to be. Yes, many of the movies he notes make their characters either tops in their field or capable of quite a lot. But his general thesis appears to assume that lawyers are, in general, really smart people. I have known plenty of lawyers, and like with most people only about half of them have been what I would call particularly smart. His objections about the unethical behaviors of many of the characters are understandable, except that these are movies we’re talking about. They are supposed to depict remarkable or shocking situations. If they actually showed most of what lawyers deal with on a daily basis they’d be worse than ridiculous – they’d be boring.

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      • I think he covered that. As you said, his argument is that most of these movie lawyers are supposed to be extremely gifted or experts in their field. Cindy Crawford as an expert in maritime law is as plausible as Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist. I can buy Julia Roberts as a law student, but not necessarily as the most talented law student the world has ever seen.

        Yes, lawyers are quite capable of being stupid. Having spent more time around lawyers than I would like, even the brilliant ones have tendency to lack common sense. There are plenty of idiots who are able to pass the bar. And yes, actual legal work is boring. But I don’t think that Queenan is advocating for movies that accurately depict the profession. It’s just that at the time, there were quite a few actresses playing lawyers who were either 1. Miscast 2. Highly Unethical or 3. Miscast and Highly Unethical.

        Also, he’s kidding.

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        • daffystardust

          I don’t think he’s entirely kidding.

          He does name some actresses he thinks fit the parts they played and says he’s not trying to hold the other actresses up to ridicule…but saying it doesn’t mean that’s not in effect what he’s actually doing.

          Honestly, the article smells a little of Queenan desperately trying to fill lines. He debunks his own arguments and then goes to great lengths to try to prove that he didn’t really.

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        • It’s not his best work. Far from it. My guess is the guy had a deadline and a word count to meet.

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    • Whatever faults the article may have had, I think you are overreacting on a massive scale. Based on a single satirical magazine article, you’ve decided the author – who is kind of a rock star in his field – is Joseph Stalin.

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      • I kind of think he should stop going to movies. There just isn’t going to be a movie, or TV series, or play, about the very intelligent female attorney, filling out paperwork, meeting clients, and taking phone calls in a small office above a bagel shop. Or, even less movie worthy – spending 10 hours a day in the firm’s law library. Courtroom scenes also have to be given a great deal of creative freedom in order to be watchable. It can be exciting, I can tell you that, since I used to work in one many years ago – but a lot of times, days in court consist more of waiting around for something or a long line of people contesting traffic tickets.
        The writer’s criticisms are not humorously snarky; he comes off more as smug, as Jeff noted. Worse, to me, he fixates on dumb details like Cher’s skirt. So he didn’t like the movie, or her role, or her clothing, and worse, he sees it as a conspiracy that led to the next miscase (in his view) female attorney? I was not entirely kidding when i said he needed help. Rock star or not, his personal and petty criticisms give him away. Again – he’s just plain wrong in what he says. Women were not discouraged from attending law school because of Cher’s unattractive skirts. Or from a supermodel playing a lawyer.
        Remember a TV series called L.A. Law? Susan Dey played a female attorney, and I recall a couple of snarky writers taking potshots at her low-key performance. She was too glum, they said. They were up in arms that she didn’t smile more and act like Laurie Partridge. Had she done that – rest assured she would have been criticized for that.
        And you know what, the rate of women enrolling in law school continued to climb.
        Daffy’s right, the writer undermines even whatever dubious point he was trying to make.
        If he has other writings that are not of this poor quality, then good on him – but this is the article he published, and people are free to disagree with him based on its merits.
        Or lack thereof.

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        • That’s a little more reasonable, so I’ll take it. Yes, by all means, feel free to critique the article. There are grounds on which to do so. Just understand that a lot of times, Queenan is being facetious. He doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of the things he is saying in the article. He knows that Cher’s skirt in Suspect was not really part of some conspiracy to keep girls from enrolling in law school. He’s goofing around. If you aren’t amused, that’s fine. Queenan has always been divisive and as you can see, he actually liked to be hated.

          I’ll say on the whole, I got a few laughs out of the piece even if he didn’t always hit his mark. But as I said to Daffy, Queenan was writing for several magazines and authoring books on the side. He may be guilty of dashing this one off to meet a deadline. It is unfortunately something writers sometimes have to do. Back when I wrote a weekly column, there were articles that made me grimace. But I needed to run something or my editor would be left in the lurch.

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    • I concur that Joe Queenan appears to have all sorts of issues, & his primary flaws are definitely a) an indulgence of his own smugness, and b) an inability to let a piece go when his original premise turns out to be a bit weak long before he’s hit his word count.

      But that’s kind of why he’s Joe Queenan. And that’s why cinema needs him – there’s not enough reviewers with an urge to wither or to stick in the knife but who do it well enough to get away with it in the public eye. I’ve got both ‘Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler’ and ‘If You’re Talking To Me, Your Career Must Be In Trouble’, and although they’re wearing to sit down and read as books, they do have some astonishingly brilliant torpedoes. If nothing else, the index of each is a thing of beauty & a joy forever.

      (random example of latter:

      De Niro, Robert
      hair in Cape Fear resembling rat marinated in Vaseline, 148

      )

      He definitely comes across as adolescently obsessed with women, sometimes verging on misogynistic, and he probably does have some problems there whether he knows it or not. But I suspect it’s also in part because he gets angry at terrible film-making, and women seem to pay for that performance-wise more than men.

      So yep, this isn’t by a long shot his best piece, but it’s representative of his style, and I think he’s making some decent points about suspension of disbelief getting challenged too hard.

      NB: I will never forgive him for making me watch ‘The Mirror Has Two Faces’ to see if it lived down to his billing of it. It did. 😦

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  2. In school I was friends with a girl who drank more and partied harder than anyone else in my year, got into detention a lot, dyed her hair a Kelly Bundyesque shade of blonde and once wore high heels to hike. She was never stupid (well, okay that time the shoes) but she was as far from a serious person as you can imagine and if I’d figured on a successful future career for her ‘rock star’ might have been the only obvious candidate.

    When I met her again at our ten year reunion her hair had reverted to her natural light brown but she was clearly the same woman I known in school. She was also a successful lawyer.

    I’m not sure what the point I’m trying to make here is, but it permanently broke any preconceptions I had about what a ‘realistic’ lawyer might look or sound like, whatever Queenan seems to think.

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  3. To think that this article was spawned because of the lousy “Fair Game” (say what you want about “Cobra”, but I found Stallone’s treatment of that 1974 novel and his script more entertaining than “Fair Game”, and I like some of the one-liners).
    Honestly, I like the bulk of these films mentioned, especially “Jagged Edge” and “Suspect”, as far-fetched as they can be at times (Glenn Close, what are you doing? Cher, quit talking to Dennis Quaid! John Mahoney, why aren’t you saying anything about spotting Cher and Dennis Quaid in the same space a couple of times?).
    Cher had an interesting film career; it’s like she took it up as a hobby, like someone would take up skateboarding or dancing, then one day just decided to move on to something else.

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    • jeffthewildman

      The thing about Fair Game is that it was supposed to be the movie that started Cindy Crawford’s acting career. But it proved that she couldn’t actually act and she never followed it up.

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      • I guess I can’t blame her for trying, since the opportunity was there, and she took it. The film’s an odd duck in the way that the supporting cast is pretty strong, while the main players kinda fizzle.

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  4. As much as I like Cher can’t forgive her for stealing Glennie’s Oscar

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