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  Outrageous Fortune Two She Or Not Two She
Year: 1987
Director: Arthur Hiller
Stars: Shelley Long, Bette Midler, Peter Coyote, Robert Prosky, John Schuck, George Carlin, Anthony Heald, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Florence Stanley, Jerry Zaks, John DiSanti, Diana Bellamy, Gary Morgan, Christopher McDonald, J.W. Smith, Robert Pastorelli, Mike Henry
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lauren (Shelley Long) is an aspiring actress who makes great play of being a perfectionist in her training, always wanting to do things her own way even if it means making enemies of her fellow students, whether it be at her fencing lessons or ballet lessons, where she can leap further than anyone else in her class. When she notices an advertisement about renowned acting teacher Stanislaw Korzenowski (Robert Prosky) who is on New York asking for admissions, she jumps at the chance, and after securing a cheque from her parents (against her mother's wishes after the thousands they have spent on her with no results) she rushes along to introduce herself. It just so happens Sandy (Bette Midler) is there too...

Guess what, they get along famously and - well, no, they are like chalk and cheese, because we were deep into eighties buddy movie territory with Outrageous Fortune, only here the twist was that the two leads were not male but female. This variation was implemented surprisingly rarely, which was curious since this particular example was a big hit for Disney's division of grown-up movies Touchstone during a decade where they ruled the roost in such things, so you would have thought they'd be teaming up the most successful actresses of the day to repeat that box office bonanza, yet it was not to be. It could be down to the notion that they were tough to make when there were two female egos involved.

Did the studio bosses want to avoid any potential headaches from diva behaviour? Seems equally odd when the male stars were just as prone to behaving badly, but Outrageous Fortune did the sisterhood few favours when word got around that the two leads were a bit of a nightmare to work with on the set, their two styles clashing significantly. What didn't work out during shooting might have made for a better film, however, because the whole premise was that this pair were supposed to be mismatched, and they were not such a bad combination when you watched them, in truth. However, Midler and Long separately had generated something of a reputation for themselves, especially the former.

One supposes you can get away with a lot on the making of a film if you’re talented enough to build a fanbase who will keep the box office tills ringing, and Midler especially had been making the lives of those she worked with rather difficult with her demands - she famously prompted Don Siegel to walk away from directing after Jinxed! - though she eventually mellowed when she realised that plenty of those co-workers actually had her best interests at heart. Long had just left hit sitcom Cheers to try her hand at the movies, which apparently created a lot of grumbling when many felt the show was never as good again, and she was regarded as having ideas above her station by believing she could carry a film, something borne out by the way this was her only real hit in the eighties on the level of Cheers.

But what of Outrageous Fortune itself, was there much to say? It did unfold much as you would expect, with Lauren and Sandy's clashes only increasing when they find out they've been sleeping with the same man, supposed schoolteacher Michael (Peter Coyote), who is killed in an explosion. A typical joke sees them going to identify the body and realising it's not him because of the size of its manhood, so off they go to find out where the actual, living cheater has gone, which involves spies, lots of money and George Carlin as a hippy. Leslie Dixon's screenplay was nicely constructed, with nothing really superfluous and everything there for a reason, and Arthur Hiller revived his comedy Hitchcock stylings for his two stars, but it was never more than occasionally bringing the laughs, and then only really chuckles. If you did laugh at it, it was likely because you were impressed by the bawdy gags, but overall that was banter added onto a fairly conventional plot which brightened it up without creating much substance. Still, as an eighties buddy movie there were worse examples out there, all starring men. Music by Alan Silvestri, about as clichéd as his scores ever got.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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