All of Me (1984) Carl Reiner

“Carl Reiner’s “All of Me” might just be one of the best comedies of the 1980’s with a career winning performance from Steve Martin. Martin’s movie career has been one of innovation, off beat (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Pennies from Heaven, The Spanish Prisoner, Shopgirl) and retreads (Sgt. Bilko, The Out-Of-Towner’s, Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pink Panther’s). Generally, his more adventurous work has been at least moderately successful while the retreads have been embarrassingly bad (so beware of his upcoming remake of Topper); the track record has not been very good.  “All of Me” falls into the first category, it’s different, it exploits Martin’s talent to the outer limits and it is just plain fun.  

The sickly and sickly rich Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin)  is about to expire and has embarked upon a plan to transfer her soul to that of a younger, prettier and healthier young woman named Terry Hoskins (Victoria Tennant).

“And what makes you think you can do that?” ask an incredulous Roger Cobb (Steve Martin), a reluctant lawyer assigned by his law firm to ensure Edwina’s legal papers have no loose ends and are all in order.

“Because I’m rich,” Edwina obnoxiously answers. And she is, she is filthy rich, diamonds dripping from everywhere even the oxygen tank she continually has to suck on. With the aid of her personal swami, (Richard Libertini), Edwina has arranged to mystically transfer her soul into the body of a young willing blonde.

Roger Cobb is a frustrated lawyer, who rather be a jazz musician. He works for a law firm but is getting nowhere in his career. His assignment to make sure Edwina’s papers are in order is the kind of work they dump him with, he pleads for more impressive client than crazy ladies. Through a series of circumstances when Edwina’s transference takes place, the swami’s pot, that is holding Edwina soul, accidentally going flying out a window landing on Roger’s head, and before you know it, Roger and Edwina are sharing the same body…Roger’s!

Thus begins a battle of the sexes only we are only body short. With Edwina’s soul now implanted into Roger’s body an internal struggle begins filled with physical and verbal gags. There is Roger dragging himself across the sidewalk, one side (Edwina’s) ever so feminine and the other his masculine self. Two scenes that stand out are a courtroom scene, with Roger’s career hanging in the balance, only problem is he is dead tired and falls asleep, while Edwina isn’t, so she decides to step in for Roger. Acting in a fashion she considers macho, she proceeds to grunt, spit and scratch his/her way through the court proceedings, until at one point she screams at the top of her lungs waking the Roger side up. A second scene involves Roger having to go to the men’s room and needing Edwina’s “assistance” with unzipping his pants and  well you can imagine the rest.  

Later on there is an attempted seduction scene by Roger, at least the half of Roger that he controls, of the beautiful young Terry. Of course, the Edwina side wants nothing to do with it. The whole scene is a beautiful timed combination of physical comedy and witty written dialogue played out to the hilt by the three characters.

What is most inspiring in this film is the performance of Steve Martin who is required to act as two people inhabiting one body. It is a brilliant performance, one that was recognized for its greatness by the New York Film Critics who gave him their best actor award for the year.     

Also making the film such a delight is it is not just physical humor, but a witty script written by Phil Adel Robinson. At one point, the engaging Lily Tomlin after hearing Roger complain about his day says, “My day hasn’t been that great either, I died 5 minutes ago.”

Beside the two stars, director Carl Reiner had put together a great supporting cast, the always amusing Selma Diamond, as Roger’s secretary, the amazing Richard Libertini as the Swami and the cool sophisticated beauty of Victoria Tennant.  However, there is no doubt that it is Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin who carry the day right up until the closing credits.

****

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