Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Play Misty For Me (1971) *

As Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut, this film does not reflect particularly well on him, but I suppose that after this movie he had nowhere to go but up. Eastwood’s work has always been hit or miss for me. “Unforgiven,” and “The Outlaw Josie Wales” are awesome, but in movies like “Million Dollar Baby“ he indulges an entirely unacceptable level of melodrama and sentimentality. “Play Misty For Me” shows these faults at their worst.

Eastwood plays David, a smooth-voiced, late-night radio DJ with a weakness for the ladies and a soft spot in his heart for a blue-eyed artist named Tobie (Donna Mills, sporting a bizarre girl-mullet instead of the gigantic eighties hair for which she is remembered). David lets himself get picked up by a fan named Evelyn (Jessica Walter) for a one night stand that Evelyn forces into a multi-day fling. When Tobie shows back up, David has no interest in seeing Evelyn anymore, but she turns out to be the kind of girl who won’t take “No” for an answer. He tries to be assertive, but he is impotent against Evelyn’s increasingly crazy, clingy, and ultimately violent behavior, which winds up putting his career, his life, and everyone he cares about in danger.

It’s all very reminiscent of “Fatal Attraction.” To be fair, “Play Misty for Me” came first, but that’s the only advantage this movie has. The sad thing is, none of the actors deserved this movie. Everybody does a pretty decent job with their character, even Clint Eastwood, who basically plays the same squinty-eyed stoic he always plays. Jessica Walters even does pretty well as the Borderline Personality Disordered Evelyn. The problem here isn’t the acting, it’s the movie itself. The plot is painfully obvious, lumbering along as it does toward the terrible acts of violence that you can see coming miles away, but before you get to them you have to suffer through endless, schmaltzy, soft-focus love scenes between David and Tobie.

Even for a Clint Eastwood fan, this would be a good one to skip. Re-watch “Fatal Attraction” instead.

1 star

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