Thursday, 20 March 2014

Movie Review: The Marrying Man (1991)


A romantic comedy built on a mutually obsessive relationship, The Marrying Man doesn't escape all the traps of the genre, but does take some welcome risks with its lead characters.

It's the 1950s in Los Angeles, and Charley Pearl (Alec Baldwin) is a multi-millionaire playboy, the heir to a toothpaste empire. After years of partying he plans to finally settle down and marry Adele (Elizabeth Shue), the daughter of studio mogul Lew Horner (Robert Loggia). On a bachelor party road trip to Las Vegas with his buddies, and just six days before the wedding, Charley sets his eyes on smoking hot lounge singer Vicki Anderson (Kim Basinger). The attraction between them is immediate and irresistible, but the only problem is that Vicki is the girlfriend of ruthless mobster Bugsy Siegel (Armand Assante).

Fortunately for Charley, Bugsy was anyway about to dump Vicki, and as his poetic act of revenge for the couple's dalliance he forces Vicki and Charley to get married at gunpoint, to ruin Charley's impending wedding to Adele. Lew is of course perfectly livid that his daughter has been wronged, but the forced marriage starts a prolonged on-again, off-again tumultuous relationship between Charley and Vicki, the two unable to co-exist as a committed couple and also unable to be apart from each other for any length of time. In what becomes a recurring cycle, divorces are always followed by fortuitous meetings and re-marriages, as they try to navigate a way towards happiness.

The Marrying Man does suffer from some mundane patches and uneven emotions, but overall it is better than it deserves to be thanks to an unusually audacious Neil Simon script that pushes the relationship between Charley and Vickie towards a rare extreme of oscillation. Just when the plot threatens to collapse into the realm of the ridiculous, it touches the magic glow of two flawed souls destined to be with each other. The film's charm emerges from their struggle and insistence on trying every wrong way to thrive before stumbling into harmony.

Director Jerry Rees paints with vivid colours, the dusty Las Vegas of the 1950s coming alive thanks to the people rather than the neon. The Marrying Man also benefits from Kim Basinger at her luminous best, doing her own singing and quite convincing as a local lounge diva, her voice and glowing aura casting a spell through the haze of smoke and alcohol. A young Alec Baldwin finds the space between free spirited playboy and a man thunderstruck by the woman who will be both his life and his misery.

The humour is low key, although Robert Loggia briefly does inject a potent dose of hilarity when he blows a large gasket upon learning that his daughter has been ditched. Paul Reiser leads a breezy supporting cast as the leader of Charley's group of friends, while Armand Assante gets only a couple of scenes but leaves an impression as a slick Bugsy Siegel.

As romantic comedies go, The Marrying Man pushes into new directions, finding enough unexpected pleasures to raise a decent spark - enough anyway for Baldwin and Basinger to subsequently become a real-life married couple.






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