Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Quick Return to TEQUILA SUNRISE

Film geek that I am, the only thing better than seeing a great movie, is re-visiting one you'd forgotten was such fun to watch.  Tequila Sunrise (1988), about a morally wavering cop and drug dealer and their unlikely friendship, soooo rises to that standard.  You've got Robert Towne (Chinatown) writing and directing, and Conrad Hall on the camera.  On screen, I was reminded why Mel Gibson and Kurt Russell used to make women (and probably many guys) swoon.  If they'd lit both sets of baby blues any better, no one would have heard dialogue. And Michelle Pfeiffer was pitch perfect as the rope in this game of love tug-o-war. I would have liked to have seen her be a little more "Did you just call me Slick?" and a little less "I love you!" but I refuse to let that dampen things.  What this all means for the viewer is dialogue is written as it should be in a multi-layered thriller, 1980s rapid-fire.  We're given just enough to let us know who each character is at heart, but still keeping us thinking to read between the lines.  Let's sit with that concept a moment...the viewer is not only expected to think, it is assumed they are capable in doing so in order to keep up and figure out the plot twists and turns. And how could I have forgotten Raul Julia's role???  Talk about brilliant.  I did have to laugh, though, because there was an over-the-top drunken/high singing bit that he did that seemed a spoof on the WB singing frog. Watching Julia and Gibson in scenes together, really makes me wish Mel would just go back to the days where he kept the best crazy for on screen.  And the cinematography?  The steamy, literally and figuratively, hot tub scene alone is reason enough for the Oscar nod; this was in spite of the non-chlorinated water in an un-sanded tub vessel that left both stars with rashes, splinters and scrapes that caused production delays.  There's another scene that encompasses a moment that any picture lover will appreciate.  The two friends, Gibson's and Russell's characters, sit on a sunset lit swingset against the ocean backdrop. It is as vital to who these men are to one another's lives as any of the dialogue.

Although the film got mixed reviews at the time it was released, I still say it's worth a re-visit.  There is much to be learned about the truly collaborative nature of making a film when the writing, acting, directing, and shooting are all working together...and are brilliantly topped off with an ├╝ber-80s Nancy Wilson (Heart) and Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) theme song to boot.