The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Directed by George Miller
Today I crashed my Ferrari sports car into a Jumbo Jet that had crash-landed on the Helsinki Highway 666. As passengers fled the burning wreckage I somehow manged to disengage my car from the crumpled steel and aimed to make a quick getaway. Unfortunately the plane seems to have been a transatlantic flight and in my haste to flee the scene I ran over some fleeing passengers. Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon were all caught under the wheels of my raging horsepower. Of course, today is April Fools Day, so take my story at the expense of the stars of The Witches of Eastwick with a pinch of salt, please.
In reality, if such an occurrence happened way back in 1986, it may have saved us from this car wreck of a movie. I could point out this kind of star vehicle rarely credits the audience with much intelligence. The personalities of Nicholson and company is all we have to go on here. Slow direction by George Miller (this definitely has more in common with his Happy Feet rather than his Mad Max pictures), a puerile script, and giving Nicholson the license to overact creates an often painful watching experience.
Nicholson didn't ever recover in any meaningful way from this kind of role. Cher, Pfeiffer and Sarandon should have known better. We could go into The Witches of Eastwick's representation of the genders, but I really can't be bothered. Not even good trash.
My memory serves me badly here, but I must have been less than 12-years-old when I first watched The Witches of Eastwick. I was staying the night with a very good girlfriend, sleeping on mattresses set out in front of the TV and somehow we ended up finding a VCR about witches...I remember this film had a lasting influence on me and my thinking on adulthood. It would be fun to grow up with my girlfriends and have our dreams answered in the form of a man. You know why it would be fun? Because for a short period we would have fun with pink balloons, gold-lame gowns and bog castles and then he would go crazy – like they do – but we could move on. That's what I learned. Also, it would be good to be one of these stereotypes: a blonde, a redhead or a brunette. I was very aware of the connotations. Later, I have tried all of the colors and am currently wavering between being Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Last night I felt a little worried for my childhood self. What sense had I made out of all the sexual talk? What preconditioning had I taken with me? Did I, like the movie seems to believe, that lonely divorced women looking for sexual pleasure are likely to bring on the devil? Although Michelle, Cher and Susan are the superstars we know we can root for here, isn't it a bit worrying that after their pleasure and fulfillment they have to kill the man who they had it with?
Yes, I know The Witches of Eastwick is written like a Gothic tale and usually their prime content is presenting feminine sexuality as dangerous, disastrous even. But John Updike wrote the novel in the early 1980s, a couple hundred years late. I was offended by the chauvinist take this film has on women, gender equality and hetero relationships in general. The fact that it was made into a movie in 1987 situates it in the middle of a strong feminist backlash. Jack Nicholson's raging woman-hating Van Horne (the devil) is first citing basic gender equality arguments just to chuck them out for "What about me?" –Oh, you poor heterosexual men of the 80s! Is that the ultimate reason why they made this film?