I love musicals and movies about dance, but I have to admit I put off watching this one for a couple of reasons: first, I dislike ’80’s movies in general, and second, the story as I understood it was about a town that has outlawed dancing and the city kid who comes to show them the error of their ways, and that just sounded corny and dumb.
It actually plays surprisingly well, though, despite that being 100% exactly the story. I knew the title song already (I’ve avoided a lot of ’80s culture, but some things are unavoidable), and liked it, and the opening titles with just closeups of feet dancing actually already had me on the movie’s side. I do get a little irritated by the narrow-minded depiction of conservative Christians as, well, narrow-minded.
The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.
Today’s prompt: What’s a movie you thought you would love that disappointed you?
When I first saw Pennies from Heaven (the 1981 version) on the schedule for the TCM Classic Film Festival, I was a little surprised – it was probably the most recent film of the festival, and I was like, this is a classic? Really? But the more I looked at it, the more excited I got to see it. It’s a musical, and I love musicals. It’s set in the 1930s, and I love Depression-era stories. It has Bernadette Peters in it, and I love Bernadette Peters (and the chance to see her in a film is rare). It also has Steve Martin, who’s fine, but his presence in a movie doesn’t influence my excitement one way or another. In any case, I was pretty stoked when I sat down to watch it.
And as every second ticked by my enjoyment fell further and futher and further until I was fairly hating the film by the end. First, the film has a bleak reality/joyful dream structure to it that can be fine, but put me off here because they’re integrated so poorly into each other. It’s just drab drab drab oh, sunny dance number. Second, all the songs are from the 1930s setting time period, but not only that, the original recordings are used so Steve and Bernadette are lipsyncing to them. That’s offputting, though I can kind of see, in theory, where they were going with that. But really, you put someone like Bernadette Peters in a movie and make her lipsync to someone else? WHY?! Third, I hated everyone in the story. They’re all despicable characters with no redeeming features, they make decisions that make no sense, and I didn’t believe anything that any of them did. When the end came around (*SPOILER* it involves Martin being framed and executed for murder), I just wanted them to shut up with the singing and kill him already, even though he was innocent. I didn’t care. I wanted out.
I tried and failed to find a clip of the recreation of the Fred and Ginger dance number “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, because it was the only part of the movie I kind of liked, but even then I would’ve liked it a whole lot better if I had just been watching Follow the Fleet. Instead, here’s the first number from Peters. It’s not bad, per se, but the tone is weird and again, it’s not Bernadette singing.