Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Movie #257: Honeymoon in Vegas

Honeymoon in Vegas is a 1987 rom-com starring Nicholas Cage, James Caan, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Fun fact: It's actually set in 1991 (because it starts in 1987, and then we get a FOUR YEARS LATER card), but nothing about the movie says 90s to me. It's pure 80s.

So: Jack Singer (Cage) is a private investigator who spends most of his time chasing cheating spouses. His mother, on her deathbed, made him promise never to marry because no woman could love him like she did (yes, it's intended to be that creepy). Now, though, he's in a relationship with a teacher named Betsy (Parker), and they love each other, and she's nominally willing to wait for him to work through his issues.

Until things kind of go sour. She's tired of waiting, he's not making any progress and won't go to a therapist, but he figures out that he doesn't want to lose her, so he suggests going to Vegas and getting married. There, she catches the eye of gangster/gambler Tommy Corman (Caan), who is immediately smitten by her resemblance to his late wife. He sets up a card game and immediately buries Singer in debt, but then suggests a weekend with Betsy to clear it.

Betsy agrees (she realistically assesses that there's no way Jack can raise the money), but Tommy sweeps her off to Hawai'i and romances her, ultimately lying to her about the amount of money Jack owes him and saying that Jack offered her up, and then proposing to her. And then it's back to Vegas, Jack following, and tearful reconciliation and so forth.

This is an odd movie, and I'm not sure how exactly I feel about it. For one thing, I'll get one complaint out of the way: It leans very heavily on the notion that marriage = lifetime commitment = kids and there's no other way to do it. But, given the era, I can kind of get behind that. It's just hard to imagine this situation now, where one partner says "but I want kids" and the other doesn't say "sure, we can have kids right now, but I just have a hangup about marriage."

Caan's character is creepy as shit in a lot of ways, but they also did a really good job of making it clear that his regard for Betsy is genuine and he really does miss his wife terribly. He, like Jack, is kind of broken because of the death of the most important women in his life. That's why it's jarring when, at the end when Betsy asks to postpone marrying him (she does agree to it, but I'll get to that), he turns violent and abusive. There have been hints that he's capable of violence previously, but not in that context, and it feels abrupt.

Meanwhile, Besty. Now, I refer to women in these kinds of roles as "Girlfriend" a lot, because they don't often get a lot more characterization than that. And that's kinda the case here. Betsy has some personality, but it's mostly playing off Tommy and Jack. To her credit, even when she goes along with the men's stupid suggestions ("Go spend a weekend with this stranger," "Marry me") she's obviously reluctant and unsure of how she feels.

In general, the movie seems to want us to like all three main characters, but then decides suddenly that Tommy needs to be genuinely, objectively unlikable so Betsy can go back to Jack with no hard feelings on our part, which I think is a little lazy. But then again, Tommy's a sleazeball from minute one, because he does set up the game specifically to "win" Betsy, so yeah, fuck that guy.

The movie is funny, but not laugh-out-loud. It's best enjoyed to watch Nic Cage chew scenery and being loud and wild, and Burton Gilliam shows up at the end as a skydiving Elvis, so that's fun.

My grade: C+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Hoodwinked