Monday, March 12, 2012

The Women of 1975: Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli in “Lucky Lady”

Written on the occasion of Liza Minnelli's 66th birthday!

Grade: **

The real miracle behind Golden Globe-nominated musical “Lucky Lady” is that 20th Century Fox managed to convince Oscar-winning actors Minnelli and Gene Hackman to star, and legendary director Stanley Donen to direct. A bizarre amalgam of a musical ménage-a-trois and a seaboard action adventure, this shamelessly marketable piece of dross also enlisted the talents of Burt Reynolds to complete the trio of rum-running mavericks, who engage in booze-fuelled orgies and high-speed chases in prohibition-era Mexico. A leading lady in another musical, Minnelli is a performer I find it easy to succumb to idolatry with. Whether effervescently youthful in “The Sterile Cuckoo,” a wondrous entertainer in “Cabaret,” or simply wrenching in “New York, New York,” she is able to colour her persona to incorporate the insecurities of her characters, immensely watchable as a physical performer and yet rich beneath the surface, too.

The character of Emma in “Lucky Lady” is a conceited, reckless heroine, which Minnelli conveys through early admonishment of both men. Her greed is evident through faithless femme-fatale like scepticism, and you often sense that Emma is one temper away from going her own way completely. Is she simply a ruthless smash-and-grab merchant or is this a sinister form of self-preservation? The jury’s out. Minnelli may bring a reliably strong presence to Emma, but in doing so retreads the familiar Sally Bowles position of being in the middle of a 3-way relationship, in a film with a completely different tone to “Cabaret” and Bowles, whose motivations lie in impulse and hedonism. It’s difficult to approach “Lucky Lady” and Emma in the same vein, since the devotion to plot-based elements such as the action set-pieces, at the expense of exploring the emotional ambiguities within the three-way relationship, limit the conclusions that we can generate from her actions. There aren’t the scenes here to give Minnelli the flavour of opportunism that courses through her wilful character, but she wrestles with it anyway, to mixed, scene-stealing results.

Accolades: Golden Globe nomination (Best Actress in a Leading Role - Musical or Comedy)

1 comment:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

This is one of those movies I've not seen, heard relatively little of and not bothered to seek out (in this case because, as I said, I don't much care for Burt or Gene)...and apparently I'm not missing much?