Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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Casting Coup Month: Shampoo

Best Supporting Actor - Jack Warden
Best Supporting Actress - Lee Grant (WON)
Best Writing, Original Screenplay - Robert Towne/Warren Beatty
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Richard Sylbert/W. Stewart Campbell/George Gaines
It's OK to admit that I don't "get" Shampoo, right?

Shampoo is the 1975 comedy set on Election Night, 1968, during which Don Juan hairdresser George Roundy finds himself entwined with big Beverly Hills businessman Lester Karpf, the common thread being Karpf's wife, who is George's regular lay, and Karpf's mistress, who is George's ex-girlfriend and the only woman he really cares about. Through an amusing series of circumstances, George, his live-in girlfriend Jill, Karpf's wife, his mistress, and Jill's director/admirer, all wind up as Karpf's guests at a Nixon party, then later as guests of a swinging 60s party. There is balling, blowing, boozing, bemoaning and babbling. And despite its comic tone, it ends sadly -- perhaps poignantly?

But like I said, I don't get it. The screenplay by Robert Towne and Warren Beatty seems very proud of being more than a sex comedy, but a smart sex comedy/character study with some political satire thrown in and oh my, how clever. Maybe it made more sense in its decade -- though I know several of my contemporaries love it -- but none of it really goes anywhere.

Wait, is that the point of the movie? That sexy, sex-mad George just isn't going anywhere, unaware of the future of the country, unable to connect to others, unwilling to commit until it's too late?

Well, it's still fucking boring.

Interestingly enough, though, much like this year's Silver Linings Playbook, Shampoo is a movie with a problematic screenplay that boasts a magnificent cast. The characters certainly are interesting in concept, from beautiful George to horny Felicia to flustered Lester. Even more interestingly, the least of the performances are Beatty's somnambulant central performance and Lee Grant's unremarkable Oscar-winning one. Mind, Grant received a lot of love in the late 60s and 70s after having been trounced out of Hollywood during the McCarthy era, so part of her win was probably partly due to that. But Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn and Jack Warden are phenomenal in their roles -- Warden's was rightfully nominated, Hawn should've been -- with equally strong, if significantly smaller, work from Carrie Fisher and Tony Bill. It's the perfect example of how a solid cast can transform dire writing.

Can lightning strike twice? Let's see what I can do:

Who is She: The daughter of Lester and Felicia. She hates her mother, to the point of offering herself up to mummy's boy-toy. And George can't refuse...

Originally played by: BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay (Postcards from the Edge)
Carrie Fisher (Star Wars, The 'Burbs)

My Choice: 
Taylor Momsen (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Paranoid Park)
Young and lovely, with a confidence on both stage and screen that could create a bold sexuality.

Who is He: A wealthy, not very exciting, high-ranking member of Beverly Hills society. Married to Felicia, he's having an affair with Jackie, and hopes to use George as a cover...unaware of George's own dallyings with both women.

Originally played by: Hollmann Award/BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Shampoo), Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait)
Jack Warden (Death on the Nile, Mighty Aphrodite)

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The River Wild), SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble (Apollo 13)
Kevin Bacon (Hollow Man, Beauty Shop)
One of my favorites, excelling at both comedy and drama. I imagine his Lester to be not too far removed from his performance in Crazy, Stupid, Love, which is not to say that he doesn't stretch himself, rather that he's proven he can play the role effectively.

Who is She: Lester's unhappy, horny wife. Even when she more or less catches him with her daughter, she's not about to let that get in the way of her needs being fulfilled.

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Shampoo), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Detective Story, In the Heat of the Night, The Landlord, Shampoo, Voyage of the Damned)
Lee Grant (Valley of the Dolls, The Swarm)

My Choice: Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Hairspray), Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (The Fabulous Baker Boys, Love Field) and Best Supporting Actress (Dangerous Liaisons), BAFTA Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Dangerous Liaisons), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress - Drama (The Fabulous Baker Boys), SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (White Oleander) and Best Ensemble (Hairspray)
Michelle Pfeiffer (Grease 2, Dark Shadows)
I think she could do a lot with the role. Certainly she's beautiful enough to have both George and Lester. She's terrific in comedies, too.

Who is She: George's slightly dizzy girlfriend, an actress who really wants a relationship with him. But his carelessness hits her hard -- and she's not as dumb as she looks.

Originally played by: Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Shampoo), Academy Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Cactus Flower), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (Cactus Flower/There's a Girl in My Soup)
Goldie Hawn (The First Wives Club, Everyone Says I Love You)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (An Education)
Rosamund Pike (The Big Year, Wrath of the Titans)
An actress who has already proven that she can find interesting beats within roles that should be paper-thin -- be it Die Another Day or Jack Reacher.

Who is She: George's former flame, the woman he never completely got over. And even as a friend of Jill's, and as Lester's mistress, she too realizes that they have a chemistry together.

Originally played by: Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Actress (Away from Her), Academy Award/BAFTA Award Winner for Best [British] Actress (Darling), Golden Globe/SAG Award Winner for Best Actress [Drama] (Away from Her)
Julie Christie (Far From the Madding Crowd, Red Riding Hood)

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe/SAG Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress, BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (The Constant Gardener)
Rachel Weisz (Definitely, Maybe, The Deep Blue Sea)
Is it the British thing? Probably. But like Christie, she can also project intelligence and sexuality, and would be interesting to watch playing Jackie's forced

Who is He: A slightly dim hairdresser ruled by his cock, though in his defense he only fucks for fun, not profit. Wants to open his own salon, and in this instance he does put his pecker to good use, meeting with the husband of his current dalliance to discuss possibly bankrolling him.

Originally played by: Academy Award/DGA/Golden Globe Winner for Best Director (Reds), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best [Foreign] Actor (Bonnie and Clyde, Reds), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy (Heaven Can Wait), WGA Award Winner for Best Original Comedy (Shampoo), Best Original Screenplay (Reds) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Heaven Can Wait)
Warren Beatty (Love Affair, Dick Tracy)

My Choice: 
Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, The Paperboy)
Great hair, sexy, charming, could find more interesting things to do than just stare blankly in hopes that it will pass for a performance.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey
Best Actress: Rachel Weisz
Best Supporting Actor: Kevin Bacon
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Pfeiffer, Rosamund Pike


Andrew K. said...

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! To Matthew as Warren.

YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! To everyone else.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

George is a strangely difficult character to cast. My second choice is Bradley Cooper, but even then...

Andrew K. said...

I agree, it's too much of Warren to imagine someone else. Ideally it would be 2001 Brad. But in five or ten years I'd believably see Aaron Tveit in the role.

For now...Ewan McGregor...?