First Impressions : Bisset & Bergen in Rich and Famous (1981)

” I have been thinking a lot about us. We are terrific. We have accomplished one hell of a lot in one lifetime. ” – Rich & Famous 

Sometimes it takes us years to finally see that film that we remember as a blurred image from years back. I have always been a fan of director George Cukor. If you asked me to name only one filmmaker I would say Cukor. He has such a body of work, work which I thought I have seen all of. Even when you think you know someone’s work so well, there always seems to be something that slips through the cracks that you missed. Rich and Famous (1981) was that film for me. I remember watching a sensational documentary called On Cukor (2001), a PBS documentary which is also a book about the director’s life. The last film they mention is Rich and Famous which didn’t appeal at all to me at the time when I was eighteen. I disregarded it as being his last film, which looked like an 80s soap opera from the short scene they showed. I hadn’t even thought about the film since I last saw that clip, but it sneaked up on me the other night when I was looking for the film T.R. Baskin (1971) from ten years earlier which I hope to do a post on soon!

MCDRIAN EC024So, I was having one of those nights, you know what I’m talking about, where I was lucky to have hundredths of films in my apartment but felt like I had nothing to watch at all. A great excuse to get this film, which I just knew wasn’t going to be good due to all my horrid pre snobby film judgment, but I was desperate. Well, I put it on, and I am now writing to say I actually have a lot to say about it! The film begins with Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen, two women who I adore, running out of Smith College in 1959 ( a college I almost went to) to get on a train so that Bergen can go off and get married to man and set out to Malibu. Bisset says goodbye tearfully and yells that she is going to be a successful, independent writer the next Dorothy Parker. All of this does happen and quite quickly. Next, I find myself in Malibu with Bisset visiting Bergen at her spacious seventies Malibu home. It is now the early 70s and Bisset is a very well regarded writer just like she told us she would be. What is her book about I couldn’t really tell you at all except women and men seem to hold it in positive regard. This is what Bergen wants to we find out in life. Then comes one of what I think is the best scene in the film with the two of them discussing their current life and Bergen’s need to write too.  You can watch it here -> Liz & Marry talk book. ( clap, clap)

 Now this scene really got me, and made me think this movie has the kind of dialogue and acting that I like to call cinema’s little golden moments. How rare they are but when they come thanks to these two superb actresses along with a brilliant director; I cannot help but get a jolt of cinema power energy.  I wanted more scenes like this!! The screenwriter gets us off to such a good, strong start and then there are very few moments again like this for the rest of the sixty minutes. Why! Why! No! The movie goes on with Bergen getting her book published thanks to Bisset with lots of Jacqueline Susann like publicity, and follows these two friends into the nightmare of living with the lure of recognition. A lot is talked about in this film when these two are actually together and not with their love attractions, but then there are so many moments where Bergen is given such poor dialogue that even her pure expressions made me just want more. I kept thinking, I want to know more about what she thinks about her friend not writing like she used to, or about her own career. Why is it now only Bisset that has so much of the honest dialogue spewed out to every lover she has. I know Bergen has heart and knows the complexities of life based on my favorite beginning scene, but I don’t get any more of this depth until the very last scene. Sigh.

When the end rolls around I start to get excited! These two bffs are alone in a cabin, the fire is going, no smores yet, but I know they are coming, and they can finally have a good heart to heart to balance this film. Does this happen. Ehh.. I would say 60% so. Am I pleased with the ending? I wanted a bit more of a look, or phrase but actually let me take that back. I will give it 80% because although I wanted a bit more of them together really delving in, these two dear friends do show us two things. One, that whether you are writing books or not, having a friend for decades is a success in its own and is hard to do in almost every possible way. Two, celebrating that you have done number #1 has to be a priority.  Love for oneself is important but then love for your dear friend should be given attention to. Bisset says to take a year with your friend, sail those Greek islands, or have that ultimate slumber party at fifty with pajamas and all.  This is what is most important, and if you think that is cheesy than I am sure these two would agree that you need to get lost. – miss. classic film








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