Main Features No 79
Conjuring up the man of their dreams turns into a real nightmare.
Three women discuss their ideal man one stormy evening. He suddenly materialises with him moving to their hometown that same night. But is he all he seems?
The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Official Trailer #1 – Jack Nicholson, Cher Horror Comedy, Movieclips Trailer Vault, http://www.youtube.com
My entry – in the first of two posts tonight – for my Here’s Jack Blogathon stars the man himself – in the role that I strongly believe that only Jack Nicholson could play – as literally your “average horny little devil.” The Witches of Eastwick (1987) cast is also led by three of 1980s most prolific actresses namely Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon. The possibility of another famous actor, more famed for his deadpan humour being even considered for this role is absurd. Yet it happened, as surprisingly Bill Murray was originally cast in this role a fact Darlin’ Husband shocked me with earlier.
For the benefit of those who haven’t seen or heard of this iconic Nicholson role, read on. The opening film credits’ scene shows an aerial shot of Eastwick, a small sleepy American town where this story is set. We then meet the three leading ladies. Alex (Cher) is the sassy dark-haired one, a strong, widowed mother who makes grotesque little buddha like dolls with clay. Jane (Sarandon), a redheaded music teacher who is recently divorced and is childless. She appears mousey, uptight and timid. Finally, there’s Suki (Pfeiffer) – a blonde journalist – who appears like a free spirit with six blonde kids. She’s husbandless as he left her, because as she claims she was always getting pregnant.
The three women are all present at one of those awful town gatherings where the speeches drone on and on. Don’t ask me what about, I switched off too. It’s a lovely sunny day, and the three women – like the rest of the audience – are bored or sleeping. As Jane looks up to the clouds in despair, the clouds change. The weather turns bad, the skies turn grey and it rains heavily. As thunder strikes, the crowd disperses. Later that evening the three women meet up for their weekly get together. They talk about the day and the lucky change in the weather. Suki is shaken that they all hoped the weather would turn bad simultaneously. The other women dismiss it.
Inevitably, as the evening progresses and drinks flow the women talk about the opposite sex and the lack of decent men in Eastwick. Between them they discuss their dream man, each contributing their favoured attributes – physical, emotional and intellectual – as the rain pours down and the thunder strikes. These scenes are intercut with another scene where a car is seen approaching Eastwick. And then we see a mysterious man and his driver enter their new home, Lennox House, a mansion on the outskirts of town.. on a site where it is revealed was infamous for burning witches at the stake.
The next day, the storm is over. Suki is at work in a state of excitement, a new man has moved to Eastwick. She’s got an exclusive interview with him. Trouble is she can’t remember his name. Her boss Clyde (Richard Jenkins) and his overly religious wife Felicia (Veronica Cartwright) arrive on the scene. Felicia is overwrought on hearing this news, concerned about a rare bird that nests there. She has an ominous feeling about this man. However, more of Eastwick’s occupants are meeting – and being charmed by – this mystery man.
This man makes an impromptu entrance at a musical concert. Jane is playing the cello in this concert. The other women are attending along with Clyde and Felicia. This man’s snoring interspersed with grunting and almost snarling noises almost drowns out the orchestra. He falls backwards off his chair and wakes up, clapping over enthusiastically. After the recital everyone’s talking about him, but still no-one remembers who he is. Until Sukie remembers his name, after Jane receives flowers from him, signed D. It’s Daryl Van Horne, and on a side note he’s probably one of Jack Nicholson’s most memorable characters. As she says his name Suki’s necklace loosens and beads cascade from her broken necklace. Felicia comments on the ridiculousness his name and she slips on the beads falling down a staircase..
Van Horne (Nicholson) meets Cher, who has an initial animosity to him and dislike of everything she believes he is. Cher is totally believable in this role, and we can easily see her as an independent and feisty woman, but with an inner more sensitive side. Nicholson’s devil then emphasises with her life, revealing this. Feeling his empathy, Alex succumbs to his charms and is lured by him into bed. He then meets Jane. After suggesting they play music together, he encourages Sarandon’s Jane to bring out her passionate side in her music. She plays so intensely a strings on her cello breaks. She then throws herself upon Van Horne as they snog just as wildly in a frenzied bout of mutual sexual desire.
Cher hopes to introduce Suki to this new great man in her life, and both are surprised to see Jane already at the mansion. Plain Jane has been transformed into a more vampy glamorous, more confident redhead. Yet Van Horne only has eyes for Suki. The three women then fight over him in a tennis match and through the game discover their witching side as the ball is propelled in the air to a great height in a fight of their wills. The women decide to share him, a situation he is happy with. Later Van Horne seduces Suki. A more gentle almost sweet seduction is used with Suki, showing Van Horne’s more sensitive almost loving side. Van Horne really is all things, to all women. Combined with his confident conviction – almost arrogant – that he can be the man who all the women want. The women open up to him, telling him their greatest fears… but will he be the man of their dreams? Or will they bring out the devil in him?
With Nicholson in this devilish leading comic role, you can quite easily see only him as this character. Daryl Van Horne is not only able to seduce these three different ladies but with three individual ways of literally charming the pants off them. He carries out each of the women’s seduction differently relating towards his almost spooky understanding of these different women. He responds to their needs. Their desires. Their unique personalities and ways of being. Add to this Nicholson’s on (and off) screen sexual charisma and confidence you can see why Nicholson is the perfect casting. Be it a vulnerable character such as Melvin in As Good As it Gets (1997) or a more masterful role as the American President in Mars Attacks (1997). In this – along with his role in Terms of Endearment (1983) – Nicholson has the natural charisma, passion and presence to pull yet another womanising role off. He does this by making his character so endearing and lovable that these women are happy to share him. In conjunction with these characteristics and his flamboyant wardrobe, he makes the devil an eccentrically likeable character.
However, later when Van Horne goes on a rant about women, we see a more defenseless side to this character. And we know through his Oscar Winning Best Actor role in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), that Nicholson can pull your emotions, as in a similar character arc he makes Van Horne a strong to a character you feel sympathy for. You feel more for his predicament. And in through his passionate monologue on the opposite sex you can feel his pain and despair. Nicholson’s devil is totally believable as a man with all these characteristics. Add Nicholson’s sheer physical presence, those eyebrows, that mischievous twinkle in his eye and that charming smile, he is just as you’d expect the devil to be. So single girls… be careful what you wish for as if you speak of the devil, he may just appear. And don’t be surprised if he looks like Jack Nicholson.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂/10
Bonus Trailer: No
The Here’s Jack Blogathon
This movie was entered as part of my Here’s Jack Blogathon. Other reviews with Jack Nicholson on this site are As Good As it Gets (1997), ,One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Mars Attacks (1997), Terms of Endearment (1983) and Batman (1989). Cher also appears in my Moonstruck review and Michelle Pfeiffer in a Grease 2 review.