Female Filmmaker Friday: Making Mr. Right, 1987 (dir. Susan Seidelman)
After I watched Desperately Seeking Susan a few weeks back, multiple people said I needed to follow it up with this little gem of a sci-fi romantic comedy.
Right from the beginning this film sets an interesting battle-of-the-sexes tone, but what I really like about it is that even though it mostly focuses on the female side of this dynamic, it never really touts one sex over the other. It’s an exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of both sexes.
Ann Magnuson plays Frankie Stone, an independent PR consultant who gets an important new client just after breaking up with her philandering politician boyfriend (and subsequently dropping his campaign as a client). The introduction of Frankie is interesting because you first see her throwing out her boyfriends belongings – a moment of both strength and emotional turmoil – then you see her getting ready in her car (a great make-up montage and some killer art direction inside the car), and finally she gets to her office and is a no-nonsense business woman. You learn so much about Frankie in so little time.
A side story includes helping her bitter mother plan her free-spirited sister’s wedding. I love this scene because the establishing shots show an interesting variety of mannequins, then it focuses on the sister, who clearly does not care much about societal standards of beauty. I almost wish we got a whole movie about this character.
Frankie’s new client is a company that has created an android – Ulysses (John Malkovich) – that will going off to space. Also in tow is Ulysses’s creator Jeff (also Malkovich), who it seems is even less equipped to interact with humans than his android counterpoint. Part of what I like about this section of the film is that a lot of what Frankie teaches Ulysses are aspects of humanity that are often considered “feminine” and therefore weak. She teaches him about emotions and hugging and other aspects of platonic intimacy. She also teaches him what it’s like to need the companionship of another person, something that Jeff has long since removed from himself.
At one point Ulysses breaks free from his captivity at the science place, following Frankie to the mall (this is an 80s movie after all), during which time he gets himself a really nice tux, gets mistaken for Jeff and goes on a really bad date and eventually finds himself in the hands of Frankie’s lovesick best friend (Glenn Headly). We also find out (through the reactions of other characters) that Jeff gave Ulysses a rather nice (and large) penis. When asked why this was necessary for an android, Ulysses says his creator told him it would give him confidence. I like that because it’s a subtle way of commenting on the ways society policing how men should feel about their bodies in much the same way it does women.
I just wanted to include this shot because I think it’s gorgeous.
I don’t want to spoil the end of the film, but I did want to share this shot of Frankie after everything goes to shit (as it always goes in movies right before it gets better). I love that she’s wearing mismatched pajamas. I love that there’s food and used Kleenex everywhere. I love how real this moment looks and feels. I guess that’s what I love most about Susan Seidelman’s films; they’re full of style and larger-than-life characters, but they always feel real.