Sunday, January 2, 2022

All of Me (1984): A Review (Review #1565)



The supernatural meets the slapstick in All of Me, a comedy built around reincarnation. A showcase for one of its stars, All of Me does drag a bit but has enough to recommend it slightly.

Roger Cobb (Steve Martin) is a lawyer by day, jazz guitarist by night. He is disillusioned with his life, and his de facto fiancée Peggy (Madolyn Smith) is no help. She is, however, the daughter of Roger's boss, Burton (Dana Eclar), who assigns him an estate preparation case that could make Roger a partner.

Wealthy eccentric Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin) has been dying since the day she was born. Now coming close to really dying, she decides to will her entire fortune to the groomsman's daughter Terry (Victoria Tennant). There is a catch: Terry has to give up her soul and let Edwina's soul take her body so that Edwina can experience life. Roger thinks everyone involved is bonkers, but later attempts to mend fences when Edwina comes to finalize the paperwork at the law office.

Unfortunately, things don't go as planned. The Tibetan Buddhist who captured Edwina's soul in a sacred bowl is bumped during the ceremony, causing the bowl to fall on Roger's head. The end result is that Edwina is inside Roger rather than Terry, possessing the right side of his body while he maintains control of the left. Both want out but also, over time, see that Terry is not the best candidate. More hijinks occur to get Edwina into Terry anyway, leading to various hits and near misses until all's well that ends well.

All of Me is Steve Martin's film through and through. The film allows him to show his almost jaw-dropping command of physical comedy. The scene where he first realizes Edwina is now literally inside him has some exceptional comedy bits as he tries to handle the situation. I figure that today, his effeminate mannerisms would not be looked kindly on, though again it should be remembered that one side of him is mentally a woman.

The film however shows off his natural comedic manner when not possessed by a dead woman. Early on, his hesitancy in using the "M" word (marriage) shows that he could have built a separate comedy around his frustrations and neuroses. 

As Martin dominates all of All of Me, everyone else is either keeping up with him or not. Tomlin's role is smaller, as it consists of a lot of voiceover work as she speaks her mind. When she is on screen as Edwina, Tomlin seems a bit forced in the "rich bitch" manner, as if Tomlin thinks she is far too smart for all of this. Her evolution into a more pleasant person is not believable to me. There is a hardness to Tomlin overall which makes Edwina not funny or sympathetic.

A lot of All of Me seems more sitcom-like: the shrewish girlfriend, the blind friend, the bald boss who is catnip to women. Perhaps the worst aspect is the Tibetan guru Prahka Lata (Richard Libertini). Acknowledging that the Tibetan character is played by an Italian is not the low point. It is in the character himself: a character who seems idiot and unaware among other things that the toilet is not responsible for the telephone ringing. It is not funny now, and I doubt it was funny then.

Perhaps slightly amusing back then, but not funny now.

Only Tennant comes close to Martin in terms of acting. She turns easily from caring to villainous and makes for a strong antagonist. We even get hints that she is not all bad, that her motivation for taking Edwina's wealth is not strictly due to greed but to care for her father. It also may be a bit of revenge against Edwina; the woman is so disinterested in Terry that she constantly refers to her as "Fred's daughter". 

All of Me is worth watching for Steve Martin's performance alone. Apart from that though, it has aged poorly. While not as funny as it could have been, it is not a bad way to kill a quiet afternoon.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Views are always welcome, but I would ask that no vulgarity be used. Any posts that contain foul language or are bigoted in any way will not be posted.
Thank you.