Film Scouts Reviews

"Up Close and Personal"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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Feb. 29, 1996

You know the disclaimer in movies about "any similarity to actual persons or events is unintentional", well, it takes on new meaning in "Up Close and Personal" the new Robert Redford - Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle. It started out as a biography of Jessica Savitch, an ambitious but alcoholic newswoman who died in a car accident rather mysteriously. So imagine my surprise when this premise evolves into "A Star is Born".

Not to say that it isn't enjoyable to watch Redford take the romantic lead and to watch Pfeiffer transform from glitzy weather girl to respected anchor under Redford's tutelage. His hard hitting veteran newsman is so straight forward that even his name is "Justice". While he still believes in the story over the style, he changes Pheiffer to a polished gem of a newscaster and romances her too. For Producer/Director Jon Avnet, "Up Close and Personal" is not just a contemporary love story set against the backdrop of the evening news because the work is in fact the obstacle to the relationship. Avnet has some experience in the unusual love story department since he helmed "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Risky Business". But somehow the noted writers Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne give Redford lines like," Every day we have is one more than we deserve." They may know the media business inside out, but that ranks right up with "Love means never having to say you're sorry" as one of the lamest lines of all time.

And I got the feeling that Avnet et al started out to make one movie and edited down to another. In what context was Kate Nelligan, as Redford's former wife, talking with Pfeiffer in Nelligan's office? It appears that there was supposed to be a deeper relationship between Noble Willingham and Redford, but it boiled down nothing. Stockard Channing as Pfeiffer's rival gives an outstanding performance, but the question of Pfeiffer's lack of understanding of the issues is addressed only by a change of hair color. Ironic isn't it? You try to make a movie about style versus substance and all everyone remembers is that Michelle Pfeiffer's hair color changed.

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