Friday, August 14, 2009

Mannequin (Michael Gottlieb, 1987)

Inanimate objects like, plastic combs and wooden spoons serve their purpose with a lifeless diligence every time they're implemented by the user. Whether straightening tangled hair or stirring a spicy sauce, their commitment to the task at hand is resolute. On the other fingerless glove, the department store mannequin is an inanimate object whose man function is to mimic the shape of a person in order to sell them fabric-based coverings to conceal, or, in some cases (depending on the virtue of your particular neighbourhood) accentuate the periodically engorged regions of their dirty flesh. Intentionally sculpted to look human, the people looking at these frozen figures often drift into a dreamlike state, where the desire to aggressively lick and caress the motionless embodiments of humanity in their nonexistent naughty places soars persistently through their little heads. This unconventional want comes to fruition for an artist named Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy) in the vivid and life affirming Mannequin, a film about not being afraid to blur the line between perversion and true love, and failing to care what others think about you and your offbeat fetish. The amount of mental excursion involved may be minimal, but the mental reinforcement one gets from this film is insurmountable in terms of enlightenment, and, not to mention, the sheer quantity of unmitigated joy obtained through the simple act of staring at it. Meticulously crafted by screenwriter Edward Rugoff and writer-director Michael Gottlieb, the film is a tribute to all those who believe that love lasts forever. Dressing it up as a loopy satire about the unscrupulous world of retail politics, deep down the heart of the film is in fact a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of human existence.

On the surface, the screwball farce appears as if it takes place solely in the chichi aisles of two rival department stores, Prince & Co and Illustra. However, the universe of Mannequin is much bigger than that. Spanning a thousand of years of human history, Edward Gottlieb and Michael Rugoff have created a breathtaking origin story, one that equals any work of classic fiction. Commencing with the sight of an attractive woman arguing with her mother about dating in a well-lit crypt in ancient Egypt, and then proceeding to bob and weave its way through the next millennia via a hauntingly beautiful animated opening credits sequence, the journey inexplicably settles in late 1980s Philadelphia.

Cursed to remain inactive until she finds true love, Ema 'Emmy' Hesire (Kim Cattrall), the attractive woman from the well-lit crypt, finds herself lifelessly standing in the window of Prince & Co in a pink ensemble that is absolutely to die for. Going through a bit of a funk of his own, Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy), a motorcycle riding sculptor, is having trouble staying employed (he can't help but bring his artistic nature to every job) and his sexy girlfriend Roxie (the gorgeous Carole Davis), a junior executive at Illustra, is embarrassed to be seen with him (his motorcycle and overall poorness are hurting the yuppie image she is trying to maintain).

In a series of weird, yet totally believable circumstances, the wide-eyed artist lands a job at Prince & Co by impressing its owner (Estelle Getty), and soon finds himself face-to-face with Emmy, his creation.

The gainfully employed Jonathan, thanks to his piercing stare, somehow manages to arouse Emmy from her mannequin slumber and the two proceed to engage in what has to be the love story of the century. All that's standing in the way of their pursuit of happiness is Mr. Richards (an extra oily James Spader), a slimy Prince & Co administrator secretly working for Illustra, and a bumbling night-watchman (G.W. Bailey) and his dog Rambo. Luckily, their ludicrously evil performances are counterbalanced nicely by the excessive flamboyance of Meshach Taylor's Hollywood, who is not only a Friend of Dorothy, but her BFF. Anyway, Meshach and his many pairs of outlandish sunglasses look out for Jonathan and is accepting his relationship with a piece of plastic. You see, only Jonathan can see Emmy move and stuff. So, to everyone else, it appears as if he's tonguing a dummy.

Since perversion is best explored at after hours, Jonathan and Emmy's love for one another comes alive when the store is closed. This, of course, leads to some of the film's finest moments. Some of which include a spellbinding montage set to "Do You Dream About Me" by Alisha, a miraculous glider flight, and a mock beach party complete with the application of suntan lotion and some mild straddling.

Peppy montages and gliders are swell and all, but having an actress that is worth animating is probably the important ingredient to making a successful romantic comedy that revolves around a mannequin. I mean, what if she was just as stiff while awake? Fortunately, there's no chance of that happening with the effervescent Kim Cattrall in the role of Emmy. An actress who knows how to use her killer body simultaneously with her winning personality, the leggy Miss Cattrall wields her supple frame like it were a deadly weapon.

On the receiving end of these dangerous stems is a boyish Andrew McCarthy, who bounces between naive and cocksure with a subtle ease.I really thought he sold the whole "I can't believe my favourite mannequin is alive" segment quite well. It's essential that the audience's doubt is properly massaged before Jonathan starts accepting the fact that a walking and talking mannequin is redecorating her tonsils with his lukewarm man-glaze.

video uploaded by korfafla


  1. Spader was such a dick in this movie! lol. I love Mannequin!

  2. I loved this movie. I saw it quite a few times back when it came out. Great review. Hope you've had a good weekend.

  3. Man, I dug this movie back when I saw it in the theaters with my mom.

    I would imagine that my reaction would not be a positive were I to rewatch it today.

    "Extra oily James Spader"--was there any other kind in the 80s?

    Mannequin was an Oscar nominee. Seriously. "Nothing's gonna stop us now..."

  4. Jay Amabile: He was the best dick of that particular era.

    Keith: Thanks, Keith. Same to you. The weather be hot in T.O., mon.

    Karim Amir: Nah, I bet you're reaction to Mannequin, if you saw it today, would be exactly the same. :D

    I meant "extra oily" as in his hair seemed to be covered in actual oil. But then again, his hair was kinda oily in Less Than Zero... Hmmm.

    That's it? One measly nomination. I thought it would have garnered more than that. ;)

    Oh, and I'm glad to hear that you weren't forced to sit through another overlong Apatow flick. It's like a weight off my mind.