Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Michelle

Michelle (Again) - Local H (mp3)
I Lose My Heart - Chris Isaak (feat. Michelle Branch) (mp3)

Michelle Pfeiffer.

These two words mean so much and yet so little to me. I know nothing about her personal life beyond what can be found in her Wikipedia entry.

She was briefly married to Peter Horton, which guarantees that all good things can indeed be traced back to thirtysomething

She married David E. Kelley, whose TV shows regularly kicked ass in an oddball semi-intellectual way throughout the '90s and early 21st Century (Especially The Practice, without which we wouldn’t have Michael Emerson in LOST). They’ve been married for 20 years. No, seriously. They've been married and almost completely out of the tabloids for two whole decades! And they have two children, one of whom was adopted. And they’ve been married for 20 years!!

The cynic in me would note that her career lost both critical and popular steam right about the time she married Kelley. But, being a man who values romance and family over career success, I can’t help but think of her career slide as a compliment to her priorities.

For one glorious decade, from 1983-1993, Michelle Pfeiffer was as close as it got to a female movie star who pleased both critics and fans with equal aplomb. She starred in 16 films from 1983’s Scarface to 1994’s Wolf. In that stretch, Rotten Tomatoes only tallies three films that failed to get enough critical acclaim to pass the 60% approval rating. And one of those rotten tomatoes is Tequila Sunrise, which includes a scene where Mel Gibson lifts her nekkid out of a hot tub, a singular scene for which the entire crappy movie was made. It's the closest she ever got to a nude scene, and I'm sincerely grateful she never went Full Monty*.

Pound for pound, and certainly if you include talent in the assessment, Michelle Pfeiffer is hands down  the hottest actress of that Hollywood generation.

Ms. Pfeiffer is so hot I grew up afraid to have a crush on her, because she seemed so completely from a different planet than myself. Ever hear those urban legends about high school girls who were so otherworldly hot that all the guys were afraid to talk to her? I’ve never yet actually known a real-life version of that mythical high school girl, but if it ever happened to anyone, it should’ve been Michelle. She could render Regis Philbin mute.

Her final movie in that grand decade-ish stretch, WOLF, is one of the few movies I’ve ever loved more because of the actors than the actual production. Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Spader are all so much fun to watch that it took me five or six years to realize that the movie itself just wasn’t very good.

Bob would like to dampen my enthusiasm for Ms. Pfeiffer -- or Mrs. Kelley -- by noting that she allegedly had a nose job, and possibly cheek job, early in her career. However, because I watched Grease 2 more than eight times solely due to the presence of a pre-jobbed Pfeiffer, and certainly not because the movie was remotely anything close to watchable (see also: Mannequin), I can sleep well believing Ms. Pfeiffer was born hot regardless of nose shape.

Would I think differently about Ms. Pfeiffer if I knew her, if I knew the sordid or boring details of her daily existence and life? If so, I'm glad I don't. Doesn’t the only worthwhile part of adoring celebrities from afar stem from the privilege of not really knowing them as people, and from not having to?

Michelle, if one day someone brings this silly stuff to your attention, I hope you don’t take it as an insult that I’d just as soon watch some of your movies again than sit down with you and have a cup of coffee. Please trust, m’lady, that this is meant as high praise, not criticism. However, if you were to insist, I’d love the chance to dance with you briefly in a barn like Matthew Broderick in Ladyhawke. The barn part isn’t all that necessary.

* --  (if I'm wrong about this, please let me live with my illusions. Thanks.)


Bob said...

I'm not allowed to comment on this post.

Anonymous said...

*I'm pretty sure I know the answer but... I'm not going to shatter your illusions.

We're obviously on the same wavelength when it comes to Michelle, because I'm also happy that she's incredibly private and like you I'm content just to sit back and enjoy reliving the films from the decade of Pfeiffermania you talk about.

Michelle was elusive in theaters for far too long, but NO ONE, and I say NO ONE, has ever matched and will ever match her wonderful work in her late 80s and early '90s days: Dangerous Liasons, Married to the Mob, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Frankie & Johnny, Batman Returns and The Age of Innocence. Unbeatable stuff. Such incomparable star charisma and depth. She is and will always be the best. So different. So real. So magnificent.

Role said...

I had an art history teacher in college that looked exactly like Michelle Pfeiffer. She had a British accent also. It was awesome.

Billy said...

Paul - Nice to meet a kindred movie spirit. She had one helluva stretch. And, truly, how many actors or actresses not named Meryl can string together more than a decade of that level of quality? Sure, you can name some off, but you won't get more than 10-20, tops. Michelle is high caliber in all ways.

Role - Thanks for the comments. I would have totally failed that class just for a chance to require extra tutoring or something. Either that or I might have spontaneously combusted.