Sunday in New York (1963)
OH MY GOD THIS MOVIE WAS SO ADORABLE. I am shocked at how much I enjoyed it, and I am SO ANGRY that it is up against Klute, which Jane won a goddamn OSCAR for!! I didn't know!!
I'm not usually one for the meet-cute rom-com, but holy SHIT does it work in this one. Not to mention it is surprisingly relevant (and progressive) as far as the topics of consent and sexual purity are concerned, which for a piece written in 1963 is nothing less than wildly unheard of.
So Jane has come from Albany to NYC to visit her brother Cliff Robertson, a swanky airline pilot, to get her mind off the fiance who just dumped her... and the reason he ended it with her was - wait for it - because she's a VIRGIN. Nobody wants to marry a 22 year old virgin.
Cliff is a little less than enthusiastic about having this kind of conversation with his kid sister - especially since it's his ONE DAY OFF this week, and the girl HE'S banging is on her way over... to bang. Oops.
Jo (the girl Jane's brother is banging) shows up, so they make up a plausible excuse: we're going ice skating!? And hope to miraculously find a friend's apartment they can bang at while Jane's in town.
In the meantime, Jane decides to gallivant around NYC to take her mind off things, and accidentally meets a handsome stranger on the bus. LIKE IT'S LITERALLY SO ADORABLE I'M FURIOUS.
Since Jane is adorable and Rod Taylor is charming AF, they decide to grab a cup of coffee... but Jane's about to swipe left on this guy when he does the one thing that EVERY guy has been doing to her lately: make a dirty joke to see if she laughs. According to Jane, this is how "all the boys" have been testing to see if she's DTF. Just look at her fucking face, man. HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A LESS IMPRESSED WOMAN?? THIS IS SUCH A MOOD:
So Jane does what any reasonable girl would do: says she has to pee, then leaves an old fashioned text (a note with the waiter to give to him after she leaves). She's taking the scenic route on her way back to the apartment, when she SOMEHOW BUMPS INTO ROD TAYLOR AGAIN. Jane's all awkward because she just ditched this guy at a cafe, but he's being awkward too? He apologizes for "having to leave like that," and Jane's like ???? TURNS OUT ROD TAYLOR LEFT THE WAITER A NOTE TO GIVE TO JANE WHEN SHE CAME BACK FROM THE BATHROOM TOO BECAUSE HE FELT LIKE HE'D RUINED THEIR DATE. OH MY GOD. THEY DON'T MAKE ROM-COMS LIKE THIS ANYMORE.
Since they're obviously destined to be together, they spend a day being SO FUCKING ADORABLE IT MAKES ME SICK. They go boat riding, they talk about life, they get caught in a rainstorm. Rather than die of pneumonia, Jane's like hey, my brother's apartment is just around the corner, If You Know What I Mean.
Back at the apartment, Jane decides once and for all it's time to get rid of that pesky virginity that's been causing her nothing but problems. Jane seduces him in the most AGGRESSIVELY ADORABLE WAY POSSIBLE, and then the following scene happens. It's a little long, but seriously, I encourage you to watch it all the way through. I was SHOCKED at how relevant this material is:
...See what I mean??? I wish I'd known about this material in my Scene Study class back in ~theatre school~ because it does NOT go the way I expected it to. We're dealing with consent, with female sexuality, with the male gaze, with masculine toxicity, with double standards, and they're doing it all with strong, intellectual, compassionate points of view and just the right amount of humor. I know I'm mostly complimenting the writing right now, but as we learned in Period of Fucking Adjustment the writing can be utterly butchered if the director is a misogynistic piece of shit who doesn't understand what a goddamn SATIRE is supposed to look like. THIS was an appropriately handled piece, and both the actors are up to the fucking task. Not to mention that chemistry! It doesn't say when or where, but according to the IMDB trivia section for this movie, Jane Fonda was quoted as saying that this was the first film she really had fun doing, and the first one she felt like she was actually a good actor in. And it fucking shows.
I not going to spoil the rest of the movie, because this on the short list of ones that I ACTUALLY THINK EVERYBODY SHOULD WATCH. Suffice it to say: hijinks ensue, Jane is aggressively adorable, Rod Taylor is a champ, the comedic timing is on point, and the story actually kept me guessing. I liked Jane Fonda when I started this escapade, but I think I'm starting to fall in love with her.
Key words to remember: aggressive, adorable, shocking. Please no one do a word count on how many times I used those adjectives.
Let's get one thing straight: this is not a very good movie. When you're doing a MURDER MYSTERY, it helps to have more than 6 characters (one of whom is missing, the other DIES half way through)... other wise it's pretty easy to figure out whodunnit. Spoiler alert: it's not Jane Fonda, and it's not Kiefer Sutherland's Dad.
I guess I can congratulate the writers for not making Jane out to be a Hooker With a Heart of Gold, but she's hardly much better... she's a failed actress/prostitute (RUDE ASSUMPTION) who literally just keeps "turning tricks" (lol the 70s) because she's... addicted to it?? And is in therapy to try and stop being addicted to it? So she's a nymphomaniac? I guess?? More importantly, she's the genesis of Lana's fashion aesthetic from Archer, who shamelessly stole Jane's iconic #lewk:
Literally the exact same outfit
The basic premise of the film is simple: some famous rich white business guy goes missing, and the only connection they have to his mysterious disappearance is a "high end call-girl" he banged in NYC once - Jane. So the police send their best detective (Kiefer Sutherland's Dad) to figure it all out...
! Spoiler Alert !
Jane thinks the missing guy is this John who who beat her up, but it isn't - he's actually some other John who got MURDERED by the guy who beat her up, and the guy who beat her up and murdered the rich white guy was THE CHIEF OF POLICE, WHAAAAAAAAT? Also KSD falls in love with Jane Fonda and that's it, that's literally the whole movie. There's a few extraneous subplots thrown in at a desperate attempt to achieve some sort of texture or depth, but there's not a lot going for this movie.
EX-FUCKING-CEPT for this little goddamn excerpt from Susan Lacy's HBO documentary Jane in Five Acts: (seriously, you should really watch the whole thing, it's extremely well done)
FIRST OF ALL: If you read anything from Meryl Madness, you'll recall my VERY STRONG FEELINGS about "Method Actors" and how they're all fucking selfish white men who emotionally manipulate film sets and abuse the time, energy, and attention of the cast & crew for their own selfish exploitation. Jane does no fucking such thing. She quietly submitted herself to the devoted education of New York sex-workers to observe and learn, without demanding any sort of accolade for her sacrifice. She just wanted to portray them authentically and compassionately.
SECOND OF ALL: She had the intuition to ask Pakula (the director) to film all the psychiatrist scenes at the END of the film shoot, so that she'd be as saturated and invested in the role as possible.
THIRD OF ALL: SHE FUCKING WROTE THE PSYCHIATRIST SCENES. They were not yet written. JANE IMPROVISED THOSE LINES. I don't really have strong feelings about her Oscar for Best Actress in this one, but truthfully, she should've also gotten a credit for Best Original Screenplay. Because only a fucking woman who gives a shit about sex workers could've written that:
All that being said, one scene - albeit an extraordinary one - is not enough for me. Jane does some beautiful character work in this film, and that deserves our admiration. This is "real acting." I have to give credit to Pakula for allowing his women to just be: in all their complexity and ugliness, in all their anger and vulnerability. There's one scene where Jane is basically fucked, at the mercy of The Bad Guy, thinking she's about to die while having to sit through his agonizing and poorly written Bad Guy Monologue, and she's just quietly crying, snot running down her face, and it's so - effortless. She's not trying to cry beautifully. And she's not trying to hide that she's crying. She's just... being.
But much like Meryl in Sophie's Choice, the rest of the movie is so poorly put together that I am legitimately distracted by how much of a burden the leading lady is carrying. There's nothing more disappointing than a terrible movie with an extraordinary performance.
Remember the 2009 Oscars when Marisa Tomei was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as a stripper in The Wrestler and she was up against Amy Adams for her portrayal as a nun in Doubt?? This is kind of what this feels like. Doesn't seem fair pitting Virgin Jane against Whore Jane (literally), but the Bracket Hath Spoken.
Since the overall theme today seems to be "shocking" ... this ain't 2009.
The winner is: