I was inspired to feature Jack Nicholson in this series after I took part in Gill’s blogathon to celebrate his 80th birthday . And I think the guy is an acting great with many wonderful performances under his belt. You can’t really go wrong with Nicholson, his energy and presence are greatly seen in almost everything he does. He is most electric when playing unbalanced and rebellious characters, though he’s done a lot of work that subtly tones down this trait to good effect. Entertaining is the perfect word to describe Jack Nicholson on the screen. So which of Nicholson’s performances really stands out for you? For me, it’s difficult to choose just one.
I was kindly asked by the wonderful Gill to take part in the Jack Nicholson blogathon. This is to celebrate the great man’s work as he turned 80 yesterday. I’ve always liked Nicholson’s work in a variety of films so it was nice of her to ask me to join in and sing his praises. If you want to be entertained, Nicholson is your man. Anyway back to my review.
Something’s Gotta Give
- Jack Nicholson as Harry Sanborn
- Diane Keaton as Erica Barry
- Keanu Reeves as Dr Julian Mercer
- Amanda Peet as Marin Barry
- Frances McDormand as Zoe
A sprightly romantic comedy about unexpected attraction in middle age, Something’s Gotta Give is an amusing showcase for both Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Sure it has its contrivances, but there’s something very amiable and surprisingly touching to this film that makes it stand out from the endless pack of romantic comedies we are assailed with.
Harry Sanborn is a successful man in his 60’s, he owns a music company and his main passion in life is easy relationships with women who are much younger. The old dog has a rule of not dating a woman over 30, which keeps his status as a perennial playboy steady. His latest conquest is the pretty Marin, who invites him to her mother’s beach house in the Hamptons, thinking that her mother Erica is busy somewhere else. To her surprise, Erica, who is a successful divorced playwright, returns with her sister Zoe and is shocked to find her daughter and Harry are something of an item. Zoe talks her round and Erica reluctantly lets Harry stay, despite her immediate dislike for him. The evening gets eventful when Harry has a heart attack when preparing for sex and is subsequently hospitalized. Informed by his doctor that he can’t travel far and must recover nearby, he ends up recuperating in Erica’s house, much to her annoyance. Harry finds Erica to be overly uptight and prickly, while Erica thinks of Harry as just a rude and uncouth womanizer. Yet being forced to take care of Harry has its impressions on Erica, whether she likes it or not. The two start out at complete odds over their ideas of the other, yet quickly these differences start to wilt and an attraction begins to form. Both of them don’t quite know how to react to this unexpected creation, though it definitely makes both take stock of things and possibly open up to welcoming love. Yet as Harry recovers, his stay at Erica’s is cut short as his health improves. As the two have now grown to love the other unexpectedly, it’s up to Harry to decide whether he can truly change or return to his usual life of being a playboy. Add to this equation, Harry’s young doctor Julian taking a romantic interest in Erica, much too her surprise and things are about to get interesting.
Nancy Meyers provides breezy direction and writing, that still retains substance through how well-crafted the characters are. Meyers supplies a good helping of unpredictable moments to Something’s Gotta Give, that pay off and make it a funny watch. There’s something quite rejuvenating at seeing two people in the middle of their lives find romance, there are too few movies that deal with attraction among mature adults. Now it must be said that the movie does over stay its welcome due to the length of it and how it does dabble in levels of seen it all before. Generally though, Something’s Gotta Give gains major points from the casting, humorous yet moving writing and the tone of the piece. There is a level of genuine heart to things, as Erica’s seemingly comfortable existence is challenged by someone she never though she’d like. Observing the changes the attraction has for them both provides Something’s Gotta Give with a surprising emotional core, coloured with side-splitting comedy( such as Harry walking in on a naked Erica, ensuring much awkward encounters). I appreciate when a comedy has depth to it, as too many comedies forget that you sometimes need drama for the laughs to work.
Jack Nicholson is a devilish yet revealing presence as the ageing playboy, realising that life may be catching up with his lifestyle. I enjoyed how Nicholson sort of sends up the public’s persona of himself( the grinning Lothario who always looks like he’s up to something naughty), yet colours it with a surprising amount of vulnerability too. It’s an unexpected turn from him that has all his wolfish tics and adds a healthy dose of open humanity to the mix. He truly makes the part his own and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Diane Keaton gorgeously plays off Nicholson as the self-sufficient playwright, discovering that romance could still be on the cards for her despite her assertion that she’s passed it. A sophistication, humour and convincing clarity can all be seen in Keaton’s work, that makes you enjoy being in her company as her professional attitude makes way for touching revelation. Any romantic comedy largely succeeds or fails on the chemistry between the leads; Something’s Gotta Give joyfully fits into the former. You just get this natural and glowing way that Nicholson and Keaton interact, that really brings out the heart of both people who overcome differences to find that they might be right for each other. Then you have Keanu Reeves as the dashing doctor that could only ever appear in a romantic comedy. Reeves seems to realise this and plays the part amusingly as a sort of spoof of the dishy man in uniform that couldn’t possibly exist in real life. Amanda Peet provides sparkling energy, albeit in an underused capacity along with a wise-cracking but too little seen Frances McDormand.
So while it runs too long and isn’t above being slightly formulaic, Something’s Gotta Give has enough sharp writing and cracking performances, particularly Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, to make it a delight.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
- Barbra Streisand as Daisy Gamble/ Lady Melinda Tentrees
- Yves Montand as Dr. Marc Chabot
- Larry Blyden as Warren
- Jack Nicholson as Tad
An unusual and visually opulent musical/ romantic fantasy, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is an oddity, but a visually entrancing one that has a dream like effect and Barbra Streisand to boot.
Daisy Gamble is a scatterbrained, kooky New Yorker who seems to possess strange gifts. For example, she can tell when a phone is about to ring and can cause flowers to grow wildly. Though because she is more than a bit absent-minded, she puts these powers down to nothing and doesn’t give them much thought. While Daisy is slightly zany, she has a priggish fiancée named Warren who always wants to make an impression and chides Daisy for some of her behaviour, particularly her chain-smoking. He suggests she find someone to help curb her habit before an important party they must attend. One day she wanders into a lecture on hypnosis by Dr. Marc Chabot and is herself briefly put under it. Chabot grows curious about Daisy and is interested when she comes to him to help with her habit. He organizes to see Daisy but what he finds while she in under hypnosis is more than he bargained for. Daisy regresses back to what appears to be a past life of hers; Lady Melinda Tentrees, a coquette in 18th Century England who used her charms to climb the ladder and was later put on trial for her supposed misdeeds. At first, Marc thinks that these talks of a past life are fabricated, but soon begins to come around to the idea. Marc doesn’t tell her about what she has said and due to his skill with hypnosis makes sure she doesn’t know about her talks of this past life. Could Daisy genuinely be a reincarnation of Melinda? And what about the complicated feelings that both Marc and Daisy develop? These emotions are given added strangeness by the fact that has been bewitched by Melinda and Daisy becoming attracted to.
Vincente Minnelli exudes his customary and exceptional meticulousness in the director’s chair, particularly when it comes to the dreamlike fantasy aspects of this movie. He’s a director whose work comes alive with colourful plushness from every angle. Minnelli excels best in the regression sequences, accentuating colour with expressive camerawork and eye-catching movements. It’s impossible not to watch open-mouthed at the decorative splendour, embodied through luscious lighting and beautiful costume design. One special costume deserves considerable mention; a lovely bejeweled gown with a matching headdress that is captured in splendid beauty by the cameras and direction. And the film is given a boost by the fact that Minnelli having had experience in musicals before, is a natural when it comes to the music numbers, which are done with pleasing panache. The standouts are the title song played over psychedelic visuals, the alluring ‘Love With all the Trimmings’ sung by Streisand in her marvellous voice and ‘Come Back to Me’ which Marc sings when he finds his worlds merging with Daisy’s and her past lives. On a Clear Day You Can See Forever has its fair share of flaws though. Some of the techniques used seriously date the film and become jarring as it progresses. The film could have been could a bit more coherent and sharper as the second half gets very bogged down with explanations, too much finery and needless scenes that fail to give a grasp to the blooming romances. Also, the sub plot of Marc’s talks with Daisy getting public notice and provoking controversy is a pretty needless avenue to go down. Despite these flaws, On a Clear Day has enough unusualness and style to appreciate it and forgive the sometimes wayward editing and choppy pacing that show the film’s age .
Barbra Streisand showcases her talents for both singing and acting here, and boy does she know how to put a show on. In this film, she really displays her gifts for entertaining with a set of performances that are funny, charming and kooky. And the fact that Streisand plays two distinctly different characters( a free-spirited and strangely dressed young woman and an elegant, beguiling flirt who rose through English society) so well, is a big sign of her undeniable talents as a performer and actress. Streisand is one of On a Clear Day’s biggest attributes and she is hard to forget. Yves Montand has the necessary bewilderment and curiosity for his role as he finds his views on reincarnation altered drastically. Yet Larry Blyden is introduced to late as Daisy’s pushy fiancée to really make a mark on the story. Movie buffs should look out for a young Jack Nicholson as Daisy’s laid-back step brother. It’s a small role, but any Jack Nicholson is better than none.
Flaws aside regarding the pacing and slow second half, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever has plenty of flourishes from director Vincente Minnelli and delightful energy from the indomitable Barbra Streisand to make it a strange but intoxicating musical fantasy.
- Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance
- Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance
- Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance
- Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann
- Philip Stone as Delbert Grady
The Shining is a deeply intense and atmospheric film from the talented Stanley Kubrick. Based on the book by horror author Stephen King and featuring a terrifying performance from Jack Nicholson, The Shining burns itself into the memory with haunting visuals, unsettling score and eerie story.
Jack Torrance is a former schoolteacher who in the opening scenes of the film applies for a job as the off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, which is situated in Colorado. Because of the often bitter winters, the hotel is often cut off from the outside world. Jack believes this is what he needs as he is attempting to write a book and wants some isolation to concentrate on his work. He is warned however about the sinister events that occurred with the last caretaker, Delbert Grady. He was a mild-mannered man who because of the intense cabin fever he experienced was driven insane and proceeded to murder his wife and two young daughters with an axe, before unloading the barrels of a gun into his head. Undaunted, Jack brings his meek wife Wendy and young son Danny to the hotel after receiving the job. Upon arrival, the hotel cook Dick Hallorann notices something about the young Danny. Danny has what he calls ‘The Shining’ which is the ability to see events in the past as well as the future. Danny’s knowledge of what has happened and will happen manifests itself as an imaginary friend called Tony. Danny, out of his family is the first to come into contact with the haunting presence of former misdeeds as creepy visions float through his mind. Jack, who we learn is a recovering alcoholic and abusive man, also starts to disintegrate as his tenure at the hotel goes on, until he descends into full-on madness from which no one is safe.
Stanley Kubrick is at the height of his cinematic powers directing this eerie piece of psychological terror. He gives The Shining an atmospheric and ambiguous pulse that reaches out and sucks the viewer in with spellbinding menace. Ever the craftsman, Kubrick employs gliding camerawork to show us the sheer scope of the hotel and the sinister sets of events that keep replaying. Kubrick manages to successfully blur the lines between what is real and what is not and he does this with assured skill and unsettling pace. What I’ve always admired about The Shining, is the use of repetition. The repetition of certain phrases, the repetition of visions and mirrors gives the film a deeply unsettling sense of disturbed and subtle horror. Memorable scenes abound in this film from the cascading river of blood that emerges from an elevator, the ghosts of the dead girls dressed in identical clothes beckoning a terrified Danny to play with them “forever and ever” and not forgetting Jack, axe in hand, roaring “Here’s Johnny” as his terrified wife Wendy almost crumbles in hysterics. An ominous score perfectly accentuates the encroaching horror that engulfs the family during their stay at the hotel with ghostly piano, sinister synthesizers and doom-laden strings .
Jack Nicholson is outstanding in the role of Jack Torrance, whose already fragile grip on reality begins to fall away as he becomes victim to the hotel’s past. Filled with wild-eyed mania and imposing stance, Nicholson creates an unforgettable portrait of mental disintegration. Shelley Duvall encompasses the simpering, meek and mousy personality of Wendy, who almost too late begins to see what her husband has become and has to fight to survive his spiral into madness. The young Danny Lloyd brings a certain level of maturity to the character but shows that despite his knowledge of what is going on, he is still a terrified child. Scatman Crothers brings a wise side to the role of the hotel cook who also possesses the same gift as Danny, while Philip Stone sends shivers down the spine as the ghost of the former caretaker, who coerces Jack into committing violent acts.
From the stunning opening shots to the chilling last frame, The Shining is an unforgettable film of psychological terror.
I often think that performances can get overlooked in a horror film as a result of the scares of it. But I do think there are some effective performances that manage to stand out. So, what is your favourite performance from a horror film, whatever your opinion is please comment.
The performances off the top of my head, that I consider memorable and effective in a horror film are;
- Jack Nicholson as a writer who starts to lose his mind in a sinister hotel in The Shining
- Catherine Deneuve as a repressed manicurist who begins to mentally crumble when left alone in her London apartment in Repulsion
- Mia Farrow as a naive newlywed who becomes convinced her neighbours have evil designs for her unborn child in Rosemary’s baby
- Sissy Spacek as a victimized young girl who uses her telekinetic powers to gain revenge on her tormentors in Carrie
The witches of Eastwick
- Jack Nicholson as Daryl Van Horne
- Cher as Alexandra Medford
- Susan Sarandon as Jane Spofford
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Sukie Ridgemont
- Veronica Cartwright as Felicia Alden
Battles of the sexes comedies don’t come much darker and sexier than The Witches of Eastwick. Based on John Updike’s novel of the same name, directed by George Miller of Mad Max fame and featuring an absolutely hysterical performance by Jack Nicholson, Eastwick is a wickedly and darkly comic film that slightly goes overboard with the special effects in the later parts . Regardless of this minor quibble, the film is still a pleasure and joy to watch partly because of Jack Nicholson and the three main woman who dominate the story. The score composed by John Williams adds to the devilish and lively quality of the film.
The film revolves around three single best friends in the boring, uneventful and traditional New England town of Eastwick. Although different in terms of their personalities,each has the distinction of having a man leave them in some form or another. The dynamic trio of women comprises of strong-willed sculptress Alex, shy and matron like cellist and music teacher Jane and sexy writer for the local newspaper Sukie. To relieve their boredom and feelings of loneliness,they meet every Thursday night for drinks and food. The gatherings are spent discussing what they want in a man and wishing for one to arrive in town. Unbeknownst to the trio, they in fact possess powers that can make strange things happen. After one such gathering, the flamboyant and devilish Daryl Van Horne arrives and purchases a prominent old mansion on the outskirts of town. He immediately sends shock waves through the traditional eponymous town with his brazen, over the top and deliberately lecherous behaviour. Thinking they have conjured up the man of their dreams, the women all gradually fall under his seductive spell. After gossip spreads through the town,partly because of local busybody and eccentric Felicia and strange incidents occur, the women realize that Daryl may not be what he at first seems and that they have conjured up a literal devil.
As the witches of the title;Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer are luminous and convincing as the love-starved and bored best friends who accidentally dabble in magic and get their fingers burnt as a result. The trio have a natural chemistry with each other that helps the audience believe in the friendship they share. But the acting honours go to Jack Nicholson who throws himself into the part and makes the film hysterically funny. Whether he is frantically playing the violin in order to seduce the shy Jane or dressed in a velvet robe when trying to make a move on the self-assured Alex, Nicholson is a hoot throughout. Special mention should also go to Veronica Cartwright for her supporting performance as the local gossip and Cassandra like prophet of the town who foresees the danger and debauchery that Daryl will bring to Eastwick.
Despite the sometimes overload of effects, sometimes they work within certain scenes in the movie. The funny scene that takes place in Daryl’s manor,when the girls play tennis and discover the extent of their magical abilities by using telekinesis to move the ball in their favour is well filmed and hilarious. The scene where after the women have cooled their relationship with him, he starts to bring their deepest fears to life is quite unsettling, particularly if you have a deep-seated fear of snakes. Revenge comes when the women devise an equally unsettling plan. Equally horrifying is Daryl’s revenge on Felicia, in which he causes her to continuously vomit cherry pips. If you are easily squeamish this scene may not be for you. One thing is definitely for sure, you will never look at cherries in the same way ever again.
Overall, the film is a horror comedy with elements of drama and fantasy thrown into the eclectic mix. The best way to enjoy the film is to accept it as it is and simply watch the trio of comic performances by Cher, Sarandon and Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson in a devilish and extremely memorable portrayal.