Friday, December 16, 2005
Like "Top Hat" mixed with "The Day Of The Locust" (aka My Favorite Films #3)
As I've said before, my favorite films tend to be ones where I can watch them every few years and get something new out of them. So is the case with this one, an American remake of a British miniseries, and Steve Martin's follow-up to "The Jerk".
"Pennies From Heaven" on the surface is downbeat story set during the Depression (natch) about a married sheet music salesman who is never satisfied with his life. He borrows money from his wife (Jessica Harper) to open a record store, meets a schoolteacher (Bernadette Peters) who he has an affair with, and is eventually tried and executed for crime he didn't commit. Needless to say, fans of Martin stayed away in droves.
But the greatness about this film is how it incorporates the fanatasies of Martin's character (and, Jessica Harper's and eventually Bernadette Peter's characters as well) into the film. The film, once you look a little more closely (to steal from "American Beauty"'s tagline), shows that songs (and in the American film, movie musicals) helped Depression-era Americans deal with the very harsh realities they were faced with. It doesn't matter that you don't have any money because everytime it rains, it rains pennies from heaven.
Only without the italics.
My wife and I have a joke about how, when we were growing up, everytime Bernadette Peters appeared on The Tonight Show, it seemed like she could not get through a song without crying. Happily, in this film, all of the songs are lip-synched from original recordings from the era. Peters does not sing, therefore she does not cry while she sings. And that's a good thing.
If for the only the fact that Christopher Walken does a stript-tease tap number to "Let's Misbehave", you should see this film, a movie that has a lot to say about the power of dreams on the common man.