Tuesday, March 31, 2020

PERFORMANCE 1970

Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.

For as long as I can remember, I've been drawn to movies about the fluidity of identity. From the great grandmother of all identity crisis movies, Ingmar Berman’s Persona (1966), to mind-melding favorites that have intrigued and captured my imagination over the years: Secret Ceremony (1968), The Servant (1963), Images (1972), Obsession (1976), Single White Female (1992), 3 Women (1977), Vertigo (1958), Fedora (1978), Black Swan (2010)—the cinema of self-exploration has always held a weird fascination for me.

Perhaps it has to do with my childhood. After all, I did grow up during television's Golden Age of the polar-opposite-twin. That '60s pop-culture window when The Patty Duke Show (identical cousins!) spearheaded the trend for every sitcom coming down the pike to feature characters who are identical twins with yin/yang personalities: Bewitched, I Dream of JeannieThat GirlGilligan’s Island, etc. Prolonged exposure to that kinda stuff can't help but mess with a kid's head.
Alas, the less fun but more persuasive theory is that I'm drawn to movies about fragmented personality because the most impressionable years of my adolescence hit at precisely the same time America was in the deep throes of an ideological identity crisis. Responding to the Vietnam War, social injustice, and a veritable laundry list of grievances leveled at standard cultural norms, the nation trained a mirror on itself and began the process of deconstructing years of conformist conditioning.
With consciousness-expansion and self-exploration the rallying cries of the counterculture, young people challenged society's demand for individuals to always be in performance; constantly donning masks and role-playing in support of hollow, outdated concepts of so-called normalcy. Few films have captured the generational ethos of the "put-ons" (traditionalists adopting false personas to conform) vs. the "drop-outs" (bohemians withdrawing from society and rejecting convention) with as much assurance and visual distinction as Performance.   
James Fox as Chas Devlin
Mick Jagger as Turner
Anita Pallenberg as Pherber
Michele Breton as Lucy
The hallucinatory brainchild of screenwriter Donald Cammell (Demon Seed) making his collaborative directing debut with cinematographer/co-director Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now), Performance is set in the waning days of the Swinging London era, circa 1968. Albeit, a shadowy, considerably seamier Londontown than one might associate with Twiggy or Austin Powers. (Performance was completed in 1968, but distributing studio Warner Bros. was so appalled by the results, they shelved it until 1970).

Dandyish Chas Devlin (James Fox) is an enforcer for genial protection racketeer Mr. Flowers (Johnny Shannon). Chas' inherently sadistic nature makes him a man happy in his work, but when his equally-inherent arrogance and temper lead to the death of a rival partner, he winds up running afoul of both his gangland employer and the police. Assuming the unwittingly self-aware persona of a professional juggler named Johnny Dean, Chas takes refuge as a roomer in a dilapidated Notting Hill townhouse owned and occupied by a retired, reclusive rock star named Turner (Mick Jagger), and his two bisexual bedmates: longtime paramour Pherber (a Delphic Anita Pallenberg) and boyish hanger-on Lucy (16-year-old Michele Breton).
Predating Father Merrin's portentous arrival in The Exorcist (1973), Chas'  appearance at 81 Powis Square signals his entrance into another world. In fact, when he enters Turner's house, we never see him go through the door. One minute he's outside the door speaking through the intercom, the next he's standing in the entryway; as though passed through another dimension or beamed aboard an alien spacecraft.

Two (dis)similar men, tenant and landlord, both in hiding of sorts, under the same roof. One violent and aggressive, ever looking into mirrors and (too) quick to assert that he knows exactly who he is. The other, a nowhere man, an erudite “male, female man” creatively adrift after being abandoned by what he calls his inner demon. The uncurious Chas, certain he has landed in a madhouse ("It's a right pisshole. Longhairs, beatniks, fee-love, foreigners...you name it!"), simply wants to lay low while awaiting a fake passport and passage to America (Turner: "Place to go, isn't it, for gangsters?").

But for Turner, Chas holds a strange fascination. Recognizing a brethren showman and fellow mask-wearer behind the fastidious swagger (Chas is the Joan Crawford of mobsters), Turner endeavors to get into the gangster's head to find out why the turn-on of violence has always been life's crowd-pleasing, repeat engagement headliner compared to the turn-on of drugs, sex, and rock & roll.
Convergence

A psychedelic head-trip whose themes of fragmented identity and malleable reality illuminate every frame, Performance gives the appearance of being a hallucinogenic enigma, but it's a film that knows precisely what it wants to say, its path and vision clear as crystal. From its dizzying opening montage, Performance establishes itself as a bombardment to the senses and assault on reality.
Hitting the ground running, it volunteers nothing in the way of explanation, exposition, or exits as it sets about dismantling linear notions of personality and identity in a startling tapestry of images and ideas. And it goes about it at breakneck speed, fairly daring you to keep up.
Anthony Valentine as Joey Maddocks
Early drafts allude to a past sexual relationship as being the source of the
ambiguous acrimony between Chas the enforcer and Joey the bookie

Contrary to its reputation for being impenetrable and opaque, Performance's plot is really pretty straightforward in and of itself (slim, even); it's in the telling where things take a headlong turn into crazy. With duality as its defining thematic and visual motif, everything about the look and feel of Performance—from its fluid representation of time (past, present, and future intersect kaleidoscopically) to its recurring patterns of mirrors and twinning—is linked to the concept that everyone and everything has its shadow and light, yin and yang.
Peace & Love / Hate & Violence
The paradox of the '60s "All You Need Is Love" flower power hippie movement is that the '60s was also an extremely violent and socially turbulent decade. Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated three months before filming began on Performance. Here, a newspaper clipping referencing King's 1964 trip to Oslo, Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize has been posted on a headboard by one of Turner's previous tenants.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
Performance is the Doublemint Gum of head movies. A double your pleasure, double your fun mind-fuck expedition to the axis points of male/female, sex/violence, queer/straight. Virtually everything in this film is the mirror image of something else; a reflection viewed through a fractured prism that turns in upon itself and back around again.
Performance’s most ingenious application of dualism is in having the film itself—paralleling the arc of its two lead characters—structured as two separate movies that ultimately converge into one.
The first film is a brutal gangster movie about a preening East End hoodlum. The second is something like a stoner’s homage to Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd.; the recluse in this instance, a past-his-prime rock star (“He had three number ones, two number twos, and a number four!”) numbing himself with drugs and decadence. Their eventual convergence—a dive into the deep end of the magic realism pool—leads to the dreamscape collision of two separate worlds and the hallucinatory merging of two disparate men.

Memo from Turner
Making good on his desire to get into the head of his houseguest, the vampiric Turner assumes the dual role of mobster and rocker in Chas’ drug-fueled musical hallucination. A taunting ode to brutality, dominance, macho posturing, and their role in repressed queer desire. 

SHOOT
Chas and Ferber take aim. He with a gun, she with a movie camera.


"Who am I? Do you know who you are?"
Identity and image. The watcher and the watched. Throughout the film, characters suddenly appear to be looking directly at us, addressing us and challenging our presumptive certainty that we have the slightest idea who's who, what's what, or can discern reality from fantasy.


THE STUFF OF FANTASY
Though Performance was not successful in its initial release, it has since gained the reputation of being the film that defined an era. And in many ways, that’s true. While Hollywood depictions of the '60s and hippie culture invariably leaned towards the absurd (Skidoo -1968) or exploitative (Angel, Angel, Down We Go – 1969), Performance distinguishes itself through its matter-of-fact depiction of bohemian drop-out culture, casual drug use, and libertine sex. Further anchoring it to the era is its visual style, which is reflective of the underground and experimental films of the day.
The gender-fluidity that's now practically a prerequisite for pop music stardom was far from common back in the '60s. Even with the proliferation of long hair, gender representation in rock has always been assertively male and hetero. Jagger was among the first to mine the hip marketability of androgyny and bisexuality.

The life that Turner lives defines the epitome of the hippie ideal: no work; an independent income; a sprawling house overflowing with pillows, posters, and Moroccan accents; and nothing to do but spend the day screwing, getting high, listening to music, and reading Jorge Luis Borges.
But where Performance truly excels is in capturing the era's fascination with psychedelics and inner-exploration. The 1950s, with its emphasis on conformity and rigidly-defined gender roles, was the decade that professed to know all the answers. In direct contrast, the late-1960s was all about questions.
Dressed in a caricature costume of a gangster, Chas' self-identification with his work asserts brutality, aggression, and power as the provinces of maleness. Turner shakes up Chas' already wobbly self-certainty by proposing that when you change your drag, you change your perceptions. Identity-based labels like masculine, feminine, male, female, are but another form of discardable, reusable performance.    

PERFORMANCES
Actor James Fox is no stranger to identity-crisis dramas. He first gained notoriety for The Servant (1963), which was another film about mind games and power plays carried out in a sexually cryptic arena. From the first time I ever saw him (1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie), I’ve felt Fox radiated an appealingly ambiguous “Is he gay or just British” vibe that is put to good use in Performance. His finishing school take on an East End Cockney thug is as frightening as it is canny.
Johnny Shannon as gay crime boss Harry Flowers. Anthony Morton as gang member Dennis 

Making his film debut, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger may have frustrated Warner Bros. stockholders by making his official entrance into the film at roughly the 45-minute mark, but it’s the kind of delayed unveiling that bestows gravitas and narrative heft on a character before they utter a sound. Playing a man of mystery, Jagger gets to let his rock star mystique do most of the talking, bringing both erotic danger and a sort of touching melancholy to his role. I’m not sure if he’s very good or very well-used, but his Turner is perfection.
As the Black Queen/The Great Tyrant in Barbarella, Anita Pallenberg almost stole that film from Jane Fonda. And she nearly does the same with Performance. Hers is a captivating, devilish performance.

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
Being that I was 12-years-old in 1970, Performance’s scandalous reputation and gender-bending ad campaign were sufficient reasons for my parents to forbid me to see it during its original release. I was in my 20s when I saw it for the first time in a Los Angeles revival house.
What impressed me about Performance then is what I contend to this day; it is one of the rare examples of a genuinely startling film. Not shocking in terms of explicitness, but audacious in the uniqueness of its personal vision and so very unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And I gotta say, seeing it now on Blu-ray with the much-needed assist of subtitles is like discovering the film anew.
Truth and illusion. Masculinity redefined. Identity reassigned.



BONUS MATERIAL
When Chas arrives at Turner's home, he notices on the stoop several bottles of milk, a box of mushrooms, and four Mars candy bars. This is a jokey reference to the notorious 1967 drug bust at the Redlands country estate of Rolling Stones' Keith Richards. The arrest made headlines (and later refuted) because, along with finding drugs, reports claim that when the police broke in, Jagger was seen eating a Mars bar out of the vagina of then-girlfriend Marianne Faithful.

Documenting Decadence and Debauchery
In the short film from 2016, actor James Fox and Performance producer Sandy Lieberson discuss photographer Cecil Beaton and his visit to the set in 1968. Watch it HERE.


Copyright © Ken Anderson 2009 - 2020

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

BOOMERANG 1992

Reversal of a Dog

Boomerang is one of my all-time favorite romantic comedies. Time has rendered its already-remarkable cast of Black actors a once-in-a-lifetime assemblage, but the film itself is genuinely hilarious and its premise so irresistible, I’m surprised it hasn't been used before (or perhaps it had, only I've failed to come across it).
A callous, commitment-phobic, career-Casanova named Marcus Graham (dashing ad executive Eddie Murphy, ever on the lookout for perfection) suffers an ironic moment of reckoning when, after finally falling in love, he has the tables turned on him. The woman who sweeps him off his feet is Jacqueline Broyer (the elegant Robin Givens), a confident, flattery-immune executive (his new boss, in fact) possessed of effortless self-assurance and plenty of game of her own. A woman who, when it comes to artfully playing the field and displaying a mastery of the game of love-'em-and-leave-'em, proves in every way to be Marcus' match and “dog” doppelgänger.  
Eddie Murphy as Marcus Graham
Robin Givens as Jacqueline Broyer
Halle Berry as Angela "Agatha" Lewis
Grace Jones as Helen Strange (pronounced Strawn-J)
Eartha Kitt as Lady Eloise
I was instantly reminded of just why Boomerang’s premise so intrigued me when, while prepping this essay, my search for a laudatory, non-judgmental, non-pejorative term for the female equivalent of a Casanova or ladies’ man took me through Thesaurus Hell and back; there really isn't one. The appeal of the so-called charming womanizer has always been lost on be, yet the pop-cultural cult of the loveable lothario has left us with countless variations on admiration-laced labels like Romeo, playboy, and roué. But our culture’s rigid gender double standards have made no such allowances for women.
The only terms I came across for a woman who enjoys playing the sexual field are words reflecting the male gaze (i.e., seductress, temptress), your common vulgar epithets, or words that suggest they evolved out of fear of female sexuality (vamp, siren). I guess that leaves only the second-hand, non-partisan “playgirl.” 
Marcus, a serial girl-watcher, gets a taste of what it's like from the other side
when he becomes the objectified, sexualized subject of Jacqueline's dominant gaze

I was too young for the golden age of the romantic comedy. The days of Cary Grant and Barbara Stanwyck...back when Hays Code censorship necessitated the emphasis on “romance” and chemistry in lieu of demonstrative expressions of sexual attraction. I did, however, grow up in the ‘60s: the era of The Kinsey Report, the sexual revolution, and the heyday of the noxious "swinging playboy" stereotype (think Pal Joey-era Frank Sinatra and his ring-a-ding-ding Rat Pack). Goodbye, witty romantic comedies, hello, crass sex farce. A tiresome formula that presupposed men and women as combatants in formulaic Battle of the Sexes roundelays that all seemed to be about fuck-anything-that-moves bachelors out to trick superannuated virgins into bed before said conquest could trick them into marriage. 
Lela Rochon as Christie, a dog-lover who's also susceptible to dogs of the two-legged variety

Come the '70s, the chase-the-secretary-around-the-desk ‘60s womanizer was reimagined as the free-love hippie hedonist (The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart -1970) or the self-appointed soldier on the frontlines of the sexual revolution (Shampoo - 1975). In the '80s, man-boys replaced grown men in the rom-com landscape (Skin Deep -1989), every story now a variation on the arrested development Peter Pan being chased by a finger-wagging, killjoy Wendy. Mid-decade it became clear that the traditional sexual politics of the romantic comedy would have to change to accommodate women's more progressive, evolved gender status. Hollywood met the challenge by eliminating women from the equation entirely: hello, the Bromantic Comedy. 
Yes, those paying attention at the time recognized that the only real rom-coms being made were male-male romances disguised as buddy pictures: e.g., Eddie Murphy’s 48 Hrs (1982) and Lethal Weapon (1987).
Angela: "She's fantastic!  I mean, if I were a guy, I would probably be interested in Jacqueline"
The Good Girl vs Bad Girl Myth
Gender stereotypes mandate that women must always be perceived to be in competition. Angela and Jacqueline are neither rivals nor embodiments of the "good girl vs. bad girl" trope. (Boomerang ascribes no stronger moral failing to Jacqueline's choices than it's also willing to ascribe to Marcus'.) Like the female friends portrayed by Goldie Hawn and Julie Christie in Shampoo, Angela and Jacqueline's dynamic is simply two friends who are after different things from the same man.


The 1990s represented a boom era in Black Cinema. The start of the decade saw the release of films like To Sleep With Anger, Boyz in the Hood, Mo’ Better Blues, New Jack City, and A Rage In Harlem. Films that had me harkening back to the Black Film Explosion of the ‘70s--when, regardless of content or quality, the press insisted on labeling every single film with a Black cast “Blaxploitation.” The '90s boom produced a wide array of films, and amongst the youth-centric comedies and heavy dramas, Boomerang provided some much-needed old-style sophistication, glamour, romance, and escapism.
Geoffrey Holder as "Nasty" Nelson

Originally (and clumsily) titled Playboy Falls into LoveBoomerang came along at just the right time for me. I’d long ago made peace with rom-coms being “all hetero, all the time” (a treaty I’ve since broken), but such egalitarian magnanimity didn’t extend to rom-coms' “all white couples, all the time” view of love. Black couples in romantic comedies were conspicuous by their absence. When Boomerang came along, For Love of Ivy (1968) and Claudine (1974) were the only rom-coms on my favorites list that were about Black couples. And look at how far back we're talking! 
It’s as though Hollywood’s narrow-end-of-the-telescope insistence on filtering everything through a white narrative lens had reduced the entirety of Black experience to stories about race-based trauma. I imagined industry green-lighters found it inconceivable that Black people could laugh, meet cute, fall in love, break up, reconcile, and live happily ever after.
Marcus has a hard time wrapping his mind around the fact that the "model" he has been hitting on is actually the company's new Chief of Marketing. The very job he thought was assured to him after sleeping with the company's figurehead, Lady Eloise (Eartha Kitt)

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
I’ve always felt the title Boomerang only half refers to the karmic reversal Marcus Graham’s love life undergoes in the course of the film. Boomerang is also a fair description of what lies in store for unsuspecting rom-com audiences confronted with the well-worn clichés of the genre subverted along lines of gender, race, and class.
I respond to Boomerang as I do the ‘70s comedies of Mel Brooks—it’s the ensemble contributions of the talented cast that make the film so funny, rather than any particular performance. (Although I could look at an edit reel of Grace Jones’ scenes exclusively and be in heaven. She’s that terrific.)
Martin Lawrence as Tyler, David Alan Grier as Gerard
Lawrence’s relentlessly “woke” character is essentially Alvy Singer in Annie Hall, who saw antisemitism in everything (“No, not ‘did you eat,’ but ‘Jew eat?’ You get it? Jew eat!” )

Mel Brooks breathed new life into classic film genres like the western (Blazing Saddles) and the horror film (Young Frankenstein) by infusing them with a contemporary, scatological comic sensibility. 
The Black Experience is so rarely depicted in movies that all Boomerang had to do to revitalize the romantic comedy was to de-centralize the white gaze. Suddenly, long-familiar situations, characters, and narrative devices felt fresh because of the simple fact then when you change the storyteller, you change the story. Boomerang presented the Black experience as it's lived by those living it, not by how it's seen and interpreted from the outside. It felt liberating to see Black characters humanized, with all the diverse shades of funny, vulnerable, intelligent, ambitious, sensitive, shallow, sexy, outrageous, glamorous...and yes, raunchy. But in a context lacking in response or reaction to the white gaze.
Bebe Drake and the late John Witherspoon are comedy gold as 
Mrs. & Mr. Jackson, Gerard's country-ass parents 

In trying to think of other "give him a taste of his own medicine" comedies, all I was able to come up with were two. Some Like It Hot (1959), in which two skirt-chasing musicians wear skirts themselves and learn what it's like to be on the receiving end of lecherous male advances. And Goodbye Charlie (1964) has a womanizer being shot by a jealous husband, only to come back reincarnated as a woman and having to fend off men like much like his former self. 
Leaving behind such farcical extremes, Boomerang is essentially a sex comedy of manners that has fun skewering traditional gender roles, double standards, and rom-com conventions.

Now the plot gets thick, Mr. Unplayable’s about to catch the short end of the stick. *
Waiting by the Phone
Taken for Granted
Woman on Top 
Seduced and Abandoned
It’s kinda like a boomerang; what you put out comes back to ya, it’s the same old thing. *
       *song "What Comes Around Goes Around" by Kid Sensation - 1995


PERFORMANCES
To anyone who knows me, it should come as no surprise when I assert that for me, the women are the chief attraction and saving graces of Boomerang...especially Grace Jones. It's also rare to see s many women with significant roles in one film. Best of all, they are all so dynamic, charming, funny, and charismatic, they succeed in smoothing out the rough edges attendant with my mixed feelings about the often problematic Eddie Murphy (who, to his credit, in an almost completely reactive role, is actually quite likable here.)
To have Grace Jones, Robin Givens, Halle Berry, Eartha Kitt, Tisha Campbell, and Lena Rochon all in the same movie is some kind of Essence magazine/Ebony Fashion Fair glam wish come true. They're really the film's most valuable players. So good, in fact,  that I found myself wishing the guys would all fade into the background and that Boomerang would morph into a hip update of Valley of the Dolls with Eartha Kitt as Helen Lawson, Halle Berry as Neely, Robin Givens as Anne, and Lena Rochon as Jennifer. Grace Jones could play any role she wanted.
"My role involved taking off my knickers in public, rubbing them in people's faces, chasing the pants off Eddie, and saying the word 'pussy' a lot with an accent that is from nowhere on Earth. ...I have no idea why they thought of me for the role."
Grace Jones being cheeky in her 2015 memoir I'll Never Write My Memoirs


THE STUFF OF DREAMS
On television recently I saw Oscar-winning screen icon Cicely Tyson relate a story about doing promotion for her 1972 film Sounder and having a white member of the press tell her that the film (about a Black family of sharecroppers in 1933 Louisiana) forced him to confront bigotry within himself because he had a hard time accepting the son in the story (Robert Hooks) calling his father (Paul Winfield) “Daddy.”

Yes, a Black character displaying basic, unremarkable humanity was enough to strain credibility for this man. And while I’m certain this story will leave some people feeling all warm and fuzzy because a Black film led a white man to recognize his prejudices, Tyson recognized it for what it was; a sign of the vast chasm existing between the reality of Black life and white culture’s perception of it. The phenomenon is so common it's been given a name--the Racial Empathy Gap, citing the difficulty white audiences often have in relating to Black characters in films. Cicely Tyson went on to say “That’s when I realized I could not afford the luxury of being an actress. There were some issues that I wanted to address. That I would use my career as my platform.”  
Black film - White Gaze Microaggressions
In 1992 this scene in a men's clothing store where a sales clerk assumes Marcus and his friends are unable to afford the merchandise was criticized for being a burlesque of racism. With the proliferation of cell phones, we now know the broadly-played scene was an exercise in subtlety compared to the reality.

And indeed, it has been the eternal legacy of Black artists in film to take up the mantle and use their artistic careers as platforms to combat Black invisibility and present the world with images of dignity to counter generations of racist dehumanization. But as author Toni Morrison so eloquently wrote and spoke about, the constant need to frame Black life in ways understandable, acceptable, and appeasing to white audiences not only seriously restricts the free, authentic expression of Black experience, but in the end only reinforces the false dominance of the white perspective.
Spike Lee's pioneering films broadened the scope of what Black films looked like, paving the way for the Hudlin Brothers' Black business world setting of Boomerang (which in real-life inspired the creation of the Marcus Graham Project - a nonprofit dedicated to inclusion in the fields of advertising and marketing).
Father of the Black Film explosion of the 1970s, legendary filmmaker
Melvin Van Peebles appears as a film editor

One of the things I don’t think Boomerang gets enough credit for is being a Black film that doesn’t center and prioritize whiteness. Unapologetically uninterested in the white gaze, Boomerang is set in a Black corporate world so alien and underrepresented on the screen that it strained credibility for many white viewers at the time (the only way some could process it at all was to convince themselves it was a fantasy). Boomerang is Black representation that's funny, funky, sexy, loving, and outrageous enough to be comfortable in its own skin. It foregoes the traditional crossover concerns of respectability politics, uplift roadmaps, and cultural identification signposts.
Director Reginald Hudlin (l.) and producer Warrington Hudlin appear as a couple
of street hustlers soliciting Marcus outside of the Apollo Theater. 
Based on a story idea by Eddie Murphy, Boomerang's screenplay is credited to SNL alumni and longtime Murphy collaborators Barry Blaustein & David Sheffield. In the 2003 book Why We Make Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk About the Magic of Cinema by George Alexander, producer Warrington Hudlin called the duo: "Two white writers who are on Hollywood welfare rolls who just keep getting money with no talent." Labeling the original screenplay for Boomerang "worthless," Hudlin credits the film's Black perspective as emanating from Murphy's original story and the widely-encouraged improvisational skills of the cast. 


It was nothing short of exhilarating for me to see myself and people I recognized in the film’s casual intersection of buppies & homies; hip-hop and R &B; urban sophisticates and “country” relatives; women in charge & sex-positivity feminism; Afrocentrism and Dolemite-level raunch.
I saw Boomerang on opening day July, 1st, 1992 with a friend of mine (now, ex-friend) who found the film profoundly insulting because she felt the absence of white characters in the film was an act of intentional hostility on the part of the filmmakers. Mind you, this was a white friend with whom I’d watched innumerable classic and contemporary movies with all-white casts with nary a peep out of her. Exposure to just ONE film with a prioritized Black gaze was enough to send her off the rails.
Tisha Campbell as Yvonne
Boomerang is killingly funny and ranks high on my absolute favorites chart, but it’s far from being a perfect film. I love how prominently women feature in the narrative and I’ve not one complaint with how they are characterized or depicted in the film (but I say that with the awareness that the almost 30-year-old film is the collaborative work of men, and that as a male myself, I am hardly the last word on the subject). But I personally could do without Eddie Murphy’s incessant need to assert his well-documented—since apologized for—homophobia (Good Lord…the man can’t even let a Frenchman platonically kiss him on the cheek!), and the scenes between Marcus and his buddies grow more cringe-worthy with each passing year (they trigger a lifetime’s memories of having to suffer the toxic masculinity byplay of barbershop talk).
Chris Rock as corporate gossip, Bony T
What lingers with me and what makes me understand how Boomerang has grown into a classic and cult favorite is that it’s a glimmering time capsule of Black culture, highlighting a vast cross-section of amazing Black artists. As a film, it’s a little piece of comic brilliance that shows its age in some respects but largely reveals how ahead of the curve it was in defining its point of view and depicting a side of Black life rarely seen on movie screens. The rare entertainment that succeeds in actually being entertaining, I champion Boomerang for its humor, its heart, its raunchy outrageousness, and especially for its refreshing vision of romance and Black lives lived in a glossy, stylishly old-fashioned Hollywood landscape.
And I Will Give U My Heart


BONUS MATERIAL

With eight weeks in the #1 spot on the R&B charts, the Boomerang soundtrack was a massive hit, with singles flooding the radio airwaves of 1992. To this day my personal fave track remains Grace Jones' "7 Day Weekend," A song that only appears instrumentally in the movie and for which Jones expressed little fondness in her memoirs, citing minimal creative input.

Boomerang introduced me to the magnificent work of African-American artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988). The above piece "Jammin ' at the Savoy" -1980, is featured in the scene where Angela teaches a children's art class.

Boomerang spawned a 2019 spin-off TV series produced by Halle Berry and written by Lena Waithe that ran for two seasons on BET. The show took place in modern-day Atlanta and had the adult daughter of Eddie Murphy & Halle Berry running her own advertising agency while being romantically pursued by the son of Robin Givens' character. The reversal of the premise had Marcus and Angela's daughter as the one afraid of commitment, while Jacqueline's son is the one looking to settle down.

Copyright © Ken Anderson  2009 - 2020