The Film: Up Close & Personal (1996)
The Principals: Director: Jon Avnet. Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Stockard Channing, Joe Mantegna, Kate Nelligan, Glenn Plummer, James Rebhorn, Noble Willingham.
The Premise: Intended to be based on the story of late newscaster Jessica Savitch, the film ended up being an A Star is Born take on an eager female news reporter wannabe, Tally Atwater (Pfeiffer), whose career is mentored by former hotshot hard news man, Warren Justice (Redford), all the way to network anchor. Along the way, they fall in love, and as Tally’s career grows, Warren gets the bug to try to be a legit news man again, rather than just hiding in Miami as a news producer after flaming out in Washington due to his intractable nature and failure to compromise. But on the eve of her greatest success…tragedy.
Is It Good: OK, I’m putting myself out there, I realize this. But I figure there’s one, maybe two chick flicks we as guys won’t admit for which we don’t run screaming for the nearest shotgun for either our heads or the TV. Up Close & Personal is one for me. Yes, for a story that was inspired by Jessica Savitch, it’s laughable that it turned out the way it did. This resulted due to commercial decisions by the producers and for Touchstone Pictures to go with an uplifting drama rather than the train (car) wreck Savitch’s life ended up being. So rather than Michelle Pfeiffer’s Tally ending up upside down in a car in a river, she’s happily married to Robert Redford…until he and his hiking boots get machine gunned in Panama that is.
It’s really the interaction between Redford and Pfeiffer for this film. As Justice, Redford echoed Martin Bishop in the far superior Sneakers from four years prior with his easy charm and brusque manner with the smug idiots in his chosen field. His walking out of a job interview with a young news exec named who doesn’t know who he is (was) was a nice little “fuck off” moment. Redford wasn’t Bob Woodward here by a friggin’ couple of light years, but he was likable as only Redford could be. He almost single-handedly lifted this movie from the complete romantic dreck it otherwise…okay, it was complete romantic dreck. But it could have been even far more dreck-ful than it ended up being. As for Pfeiffer, her Tally was, well easy to watch I could say. The role was well below her capabilities, but again, her interaction with Redford had a not unaffecting quality to it.
Plus, UC&P did have some nice turns by people such as the often very good James Rebhorn. Stockard Channing put in a nice snooty (i.e. bitchy) performance as stuck up veteran anchor Marsha McGrath. Noble Willingham was criminally underused, and Joe Mantegna was alright as the unfortunately-named Bucky Terranova. Yes, there is the Diane Warren-penned, Celine Dion theme song, “Because You Loved Me” (damn thing received an Oscar nomination fro cripes sake). But one laughably quickie montage (they frolic on a beach) and it’s mostly over.
Is It Worth A Look: My guess is you’ve probably seen it, maybe even (gasp) not hated it, but you won’t ever admit it. Even to yourself. Ebert did give it 3 stars out of 4 though.
Random Anecdotes: DeDee Pfeiffer, Michelle’s younger sister, put in a turn as Tally’s younger sister, Luanne.
Cinematic Soulmates: A Star is Born.