Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good Times (USA, 1967)

This is a stinker from the past, but starring Sonny and Cher, what else could be expected? The first film of William Friedkin, Good Times makes it hard to believe that he went on to direct The Boys from the Band (1970) or The Exorcist (1973). The film features one of George Sanders' last performances, and though he manages to shine as an actor in this piece of celluloid dubiousity, the film must be an embarrassment to everyone who took part in it. Although some people nowadays seem to think that Good Times manages to cross over into the realm of "Guilt Pleasures," I for one find this untrue. Good Times is little more than a feature-length presentation of everything horrible that Sonny & Cher were in their later television variety show and lacks any and all of the self-referential insight that might have raised the film to a higher level. Thus, even the occasional creative idea or rare visual surprise gets suffocated by the pervading middleclass attitude. All in all, Good Times remains agonizingly embarrassing from beginning to end. (Rather unlike another pop music film of that time, the Monkees' fab film Head (1968), which is less a "Guilty Pleasure" than an actual pop masterpiece.)
Sonny and Cher play themselves as two successful middleclass hippie musicians who spend their time happily shopping, singing and dancing when they aren't busy looking deeply into each other's eyes or exchanging unfunny bon mots. The young Cher, pre-plastic surgery and without tattoos, does wear some absolutely fantastic outfits, but Sonny looks likes a chubby fool no matter what he wears. The negligible plot involves the sleazily well played bigwig producer Mr. Mordicus (Sanders) talking Sonny into signing on to make a film, a would-be turkey about Hillbilly Singers in love with their shack. After a few daydreams revolving around Sonny's own ideas on what the film could instead be about, Sonny slowly but surely realizes that he's too inept to make a film and, despite Mr. Mordicus' threats to destroy the singing duo with lawsuits, Sonny bows out. Upon which, of course, Mr. Mordicus, a man who forecloses loans on kingdoms and likes to watch people get the shit beaten out of them, decides to do nothing and Sonny and Cher go dancing off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Gag me. It's a shame that Sonny hadn't also realized in real life that he shouldn't make a film.
Sonny's daydreams — featuring take-offs of High Noon (1952), Tarzan films and detective films — are used as starting points for the two singers to break into a variety of really bad songs, as are the various scenes of the two singers day-to-day life. In fact, everything is used as an excuse for them to start singing. It is this lack of any real story and the haphazard manner in which everything is pasted together that continually makes one feel one is watching a rerun of their variety show from the 1970's instead of a real film. Though the sets, often rather good examples of 1960's Pop, might be a bit better than those of the television show, the jokes are staler and the acting just bad. Good Times is a film best left forgotten. It does feature a three second appearance of Russ Meyer's ex-wife Edy Williams, but, regrettably, she keeps her clothing on.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...