Sunday, November 4, 2007

13. Unfaithfully Yours (1984)

Few considered the original version of UNFAITHFULLY YOURS among Preston Sturgis' best films when it came out back in 1948, but by 1984 that had changed and it was considered a bona-fide classic. Just as CAT PEOPLE had suffered by comparison to its original film a few years earlier, Nastassja's second remake was hurt in the same way.
The updated version of UNFAITHFULLY YOURS has aged very well, and time has shown it to be one of the classiest and freshest comedies of the mid eighties. It was also a refreshingly adult work in a period dominated by John Hughes and the so called brat pack.
Director Howard Zieff was coming off a major comedy smash when he signed on for UNFAITHFULLY YOURS in 1983. His Goldie Hawn vehicle PRIVATE BENJAMIN had been a box office bonanza and had garnered much critical praise, so he seemed an ideal candidate to update Sturgis' great original film. The script Zieff was given to direct was credited to a Robert Klane and none other than future Oscar players Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson.

The team of Curtin and Levinson had just come off the charming Burt Reynolds-Goldie Hawn romance, BEST FRIENDS (1982), when they were hired on to write UNFAITHFULLY YOURS. Levinson's directorial career had kicked into high gear in 1982 with his great DINER, and the years following UNFAITHFULLY YOURS would see him writing and directing a series of smash award winning films, including RAIN MAN (1988).
Curtin and Levinson's script is a charmer and a perfect vehicle for the film's star, the red hot exiled British genius Dudley Moore. Moore had rightfully become a huge Hollywood star with his astonishing turns in 1979's TEN and 1980's ARTHUR, but his films since hadn't done as well. UNFAITHFULLY YOURS should have been another huge hit for the great man, but it turned out to be a financial and critical disappointment, and its reception hurt his career. UNFAITHFULLY YOURS, and MICKI AND MAUDE (also 1984) unfortunately remain the last two great roles of the much missed Moore's career.
Joining Moore was another genius comedian and renaissance man, Albert Brooks. Brooks was mostly known as a scene stealing actor at this point, but a year after UNFAITHFULLY YOURS he would strike directorial gold with his hysterically insightful LOST IN AMERICA. Also cast were the dashing Armand Assante and the always funny Richard Libertini.
Nastassja Kinski was the most surprising choice for the film. She hadn't ever made a full comedy, but she had shown some hinted comedic chops before in PASSION FLOWER HOTEL back in 1978. UNFAITHFULLY YOURS features one of the warmest and most winning performances Nastassja ever gave. She's sexy, funny, sweet and finally very effective in the role of Moore's much younger Italian wife Daniella. The performance is especially astonishing when you look at the film's Nastassja had previously made. Zieff expressed his surprise at how easily she slipped into a romantic comedy mode, and he was right. Nastassja's work here seems effortless, and she generates a real sweet chemistry with real life ladies man Moore.

The film is also helped by a nice little score from ROCKY composer Bill Conti, the great street photography of David Walsh, and the New York location shooting that would gives it such an open and fresh feel. The musical sequences are expertly handled by real life musician Moore, and the film within a film that Nastassja is making is also nicely done.
None of the above would matter if UNFAITHFULLY YOURS wasn't funny, but it is...laugh out loud funny in fact, with the film's final act achieving a frantic hysterical pace that veers an admittedly slight film into near greatness.
UNFAITHFULLY YOURS isn't perfect though. It is a bit unfocused at times, and it is perhaps a little too light at times for its own good. Any hint at subtext, involving jealously, is undercut by the film's silly nature. That's okay though, it works incredibly well as a comedy and it didn't really need to do any more.
It opened in the winter of 1984 to lukewarm business and mixed reviews. The slightly cheesy, but catchy, Stephen Bishop theme song ONE LOVE was released as single but it also failed to catch the public's attention.

The film would do better on home video and TV, and it has never slipped completely under the radar. The current DVD of it is bare bones presentation, but it at least features a nice Widescreen print.
Nastassja should have been very proud of her performance, as she is really wonderful in the film. It would mark her warmest period as her next two roles would find her at her most touching and inventive.
UNFAITHFULLY YOURS remains one of the lightest films Nastassja ever shot, but it is an essential film in her canon. In fact, I would argue that more than any other movie she ever made, UNFAITHFULLY YOURS shows just how truly capable, diverse and versatile Nastassja Kinski is as an actress. It isn't one of her great films, but its her funniest, and just maybe her sweetest. Her fans shouldn't miss it.


Rogue Spy 007 said...

Great article about this film. It's one that I did enjoy as a boy when I saw it. I know me and my bro both liked it. I think we were about the only ones that I knew though that did. It's been a number of years since I've seen it, but your blogging about it has inspired me to see it again. There are so many films I saw growing up that I wanna watch again now as an adult.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith...I really hope you enjoy re-watching is a sweet, fun film...

GAMERA_2004 said...

I saw this with my parents back in 1984. I subscribe to Variety and at the time of it's release it was number 1 for the first week (granted it wasn't the kind of opening week you see these days).

A nice film and one that showed that Nastassja had a real flair for comedy. It was unfortunate that she never had more chances to show this.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Gamera,
I had no idea this film was at number one for a brief time...that is really interesting to know.
I am glad to hear from someone else who admires her comedic performance in this. I think she is so warm and funny, I wish there had been some more like it for her...