Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Charles Crichton
Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin
Rated: R
Genre: Crime, Comedy
Runtime: 108 minutes

Four jewel thieves set out to commit the perfect crime, then double cross each other in order to secure the loot for themselves.  At the heart of the treachery is Wanda Gershwitz (Curtis), a clever and cunning young woman, posing as the girlfriend of ringleader George (Tom Georgeson) while actually dating her supposed nutcase "brother" Otto (Kline).  Playing on the emotions that the men have for her, Wanda manages to outwit the group's stammering, animal-loving hit-man Ken (Palin), and seduce George's lawyer, Archie Leach (Cleese) in order to find out vital information about the location of the stolen diamonds, in a crazy laundry list of double-crossings, mixed alliances, and sexual liaisons.

This was quite simply a fun movie!  The plot was engaging, fast-paced, and comical, and the cast was stellar!  I loved these characters!

Jamie Lee Curtis was perfect for the title role.  Her Wanda was despicable enough for us to dislike her, but charming enough that you still secretly hoped she would get a happy ending.  It was perfectly obvious why four of the leading males (Otto, Archie, Ken, and George) were in love with her!  She's classy, sly, and very interesting.  I was never quite sure what Wanda would do next!

Otto was the one character I just loved to hate.  Kevin Kline did a wonderful job at shaping this twisted, nutty, and (don't call him stupid) character.  Despite the fact that he claims he doesn't get jealous, it's obvious that Otto isn't content with pretending to be Wanda's brother if she's seducing other men to further their get-rich-quick scheme.  He's bumbling, annoying, intrusive, in-your-face, and mean, but somehow, I don't think the film would be half as good without him!

Ken and Archie were my favorites, perhaps because they were played by Monty Python alumni Michael Palin and John Cleese respectively.  Perhaps, it was because they were both incredibly endearing, hopelessly in love, and both seemingly destined for failure. Ken, the stuttering, animal-loving hit-man can't bring himself to profess his love for his roommate's girlfriend, especially not with her unstable brother Otto sniffing around.  Archie believes that Wanda is in love with him, but doesn't realize that not only is she dating two different men (his client George being one of them), but that she's only showing interest in him to find the location of the stolen diamonds so that she can take all the profit for herself.  But, he's sweet and sad; his home life is crumbling, and he finally finds someone who makes him feel alive again.  During his scenes with Wanda, I couldn't decide if I wanted them to break up (to spare him worse heartbreak later) or stay together because it made him so happy!

All in all, this is a hilarious film!  I could not stop laughing.  Besides a wonderful plot, there is a stellar cast of unique and interesting characters.  (And might I mention that there is a cameo of sorts with a rather young Stephen Fry in the second half of the film? ;)

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