Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1984. CBS Theatrical Films. Story by Ann Biderman, Screenplay by David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf. Cinematography by Jan de Bont, Giuseppe Rotunno. Produced by Doug Chapin. Music by Lewis Furey. Production Design by Brian Eatwell. Costume Design by Michael Kaplan. Film Editing by Anne Goursaud.
Made at the height of the popularity of eighties concept comedies, this combination of Private Benjamin and next year’s Desperately Seeking Susan isn’t up to the quality of JoBeth Williams‘ lead performance, nor is it campy enough to be remembered with the kind of fondness we now give to a movie like Troop Beverly Hills, but it does have its moments. Williams plays a tired housewife and mother of two young boys whose love of romance novels featuring a glamorous spy has inspired her to enter a writing contest looking for the plot of the next book in the series, the prize for which includes a trip to her dream destination of Paris. Williams wins the contest but her uptight husband (James Staley) doesn’t want to go on the trip; throwing caution to the wind and encouraged by her very supportive sons, she goes after her dream alone, arriving in the City of Lights and having a gorgeous first day sightseeing when a thief steals her purse and she gets hit by a car while pursuing him. Waking up in the hospital with a bump on her head, Williams now believes she actually is the heroine of her favourite books, which leads to a shopping montage (cause it’s an eighties movie) and an assumption that everyone around her is a suspect in whatever mystery she has concocted in her confused mind. Sliding through improbable situations on charm and luck, she actually ends up in the home of her beloved author (Coral Browne in her last film) whose son (Tom Conti) inadvertently becomes Williams’ sidekick as she goes in search of a criminal who doesn’t exist…or does he? Rick Rosenthal’s uneven direction can never decide whether to laugh at Williams’ character or with her, which is a shame considering the class-act performance she’s giving (just watch her first night in Paris drinking champagne alone and try not to fall madly in love). If we’re supposed to treat her like a real person in a comically unbelievable circumstance, it might help if her husband was someone we would believe in a million years was someone she’d ever marry (Staley’s performance is directed to be more like a sitcom caricature than a person). Overall it never sparkles as well as it should, but it’s a lot of fun and a great opportunity to see this wonderful actor in a rare lead role.