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Thursday, 9 February 2017

Retro Review: Overboard (1987)

Cast: Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Hermann, Katherine Helmond, Roddy McDowell
Genre: Romantic Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $26 million

Plot:  A cruel but beautiful heiress screws over a hired carpenter, who later is the first one to find her when she gets amnesia. Looking for a little revenge, he convinces her that she's his wife 

'Heartwarming & Charming -If Not Remarkable In Places- That Is Made Enjoyable, Thanks To The Leads'

1987's Overboard marked Garry Marshall's first real taste of box office success, since his TV creation Mork & Mindy became a ratings hit for ABC, as well as it catapulted Robin Williams to major stardom as a movie star. It is also his first romantic comedy and one that later paved the way for Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Mother's Day and The Princess Diaries to name to follow on afterwards. The former three starred none other than rom-com queen herself, Julia Roberts. Marshall's experience and know-how as a TV producer/writer/director through Mork & Mindy and Happy Days 's situational comedy origins meant that if he can pull off the Mork & Mindy ''will they, won't they'' romantic plot-line, then he should have no problem here with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn with this screwball -like effort. The opening to this film has a Mork & Mindy-ish vibe to it, with the cheery-ish banjo-like score to brighten up anyone's mood. & it was Kurt and Goldie's subsequent onscreen pairing that eventually led to them falling in love for real and that they are one of Hollywood's unsung couples. 

Overboard was a pre-cursor to Pretty Woman, in the rich socialite falls for not-so-rich guy (obviously in Pretty Woman, this was the other way round) and in contrast to the 1990 blockbuster smash hit, despite the predictability of the plot and how it all ends, this film has a particular charm in a natural-fitting sort of way that remains down-to-earth in places and doesn't become too boorish or extravagant for its own good. 

Joanna is a spoilt, stuck-up, pampered socialite, who doesn't get on well with Dean, a carpenter who remodels her closet. When she is unhappy with the finished job, she fires him on the spot. Shortly thereafter, Joanna falls off the deck of the boat she is on and develops Amnesia. After Dean sees TV news footage of Joanna, he decides to claim her as his wife by the name of Annie. Dean is a single father to four raucous boys, who run amok, and he sees Joanna as the ideal woman to take care of them. But as he does so, both he and Joanna slowly fall in love. Kurt as carpenter Dean Profitt is one of those guys who looks good sleeveless: Kurt went sleeveless in Big Trouble in Little China, and so is he here in Overboard

There is an amusing scene where Joanna walks into the room, disrobes, and she is naked but wearing a thong and when she bends over, Dean stares at her bare ass whilst he is munching on some biscuits or cookies or something. Because of the sit-com-like feel it evokes, it does feel less glitzy and razzmatazz than Garry Marshall's latter films that look more refined and showy, in terms of its settings in the city, as opposed to the outskirts. 

Whilst the story isn't that sophisticated and there are a few slapstick moments, Overboard still manages to be heartwarming and down-to-earth in its approach to the rich-meets- poor opposition. Joanna - or be it Annie may have lost her memory, but she gains a family in return. As she slowly gains back her memory and who she was before, it's not long until she wins over the boys' heart, as well as Dean's, and seeing that chemistry and love between Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn is just sweet and indicative of their real-life marriage. Especially the scene when they are in bed and making love to one another. The performances are really good, with Goldie turning on the charm and Kurt showing why he should have attained more light-hearted roles during his career. He represents that rugged, sort of rough -though not too rough- image here that is easy going on the eyes. I liked Annie's transformation from stuck-up snob to someone who has a heart, has feelings and is more human and showing different layers to her newly reformed character. Hawn demonstrates her worth and potential as a comedic actress, which, unfortunately, hasn't really transcended well with regards to many of her comedy-based films, but for this film, Death Becomes her and Wildcats. She is a terrific comedy actress, - if only most of her work lived up to her charm and capabilities that she has in abundance. 

I thought it was a coincidence when Dean asks, ''what can I possibly give you that you don't already have?'', and Annie replies with ''a little girl''- as in real-life, they have a daughter in fellow actress, Kate Hudson. 

I really enjoyed Mork & Mindy, especially with Robin Williams in the main lead as Mork (well, up to season 4 that is), but I have been quite apprehensive, and may I add dubious with regards to Garry Marshall's cinematic output. There is a disparity in not just the quality, but also that despite the millions of dollars these films have generated overall, personally, from a film quality point-of-view, the films themselves are so-so and unlike many, I never went gaga for them. Though I do get that with the Mork and Mindy falling in love with one another romantic plotline thing was something that he carried over towards his rom-coms, I've never personally taken to Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Valentine's Day, The Princess Bride - and so in Overboard's screwball comedy like turn, it is one where I'd wished Marshall himself, took advantage of more often, as a director. As well as one he could've easily honed in throughout the years. 

Overboard may not have been the absolute perfect start for Garry Marshall, but he manages to successfully juggle both the slapstick and at times, sharp, witty and amusing dialogue with ease. 

Final Verdict:

Overboard isn't a remarkable film and there is nothing extraordinary about it, but its easy-going approach, thus leading to a pleasing and satisfying closure, makes it for one romantic comedy that easily lights up the place. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are a terrific and perfect match for one another and having that chemistry brings the middle third of the film to life. They understandably work so well, as they play their opposite roles off each other. Without these two, Overboard would have become stale, static and not entirely memorable. 

Some people may feel that Marshall's approach should have been a lot more polished and so they will not get used to the sitcom-like feel, minus the laughter track, & yet I felt this was somewhat of a good thing to have and it makes Overboard a gentle, pleasant and enjoyable ride. It's my favourite and only film that Garry Marshall has directed.

Whilst it's not a completely amazing rom-com, it's definitely watchable and one made all the more so by the appealing leads, who make it all work. 


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