Monday, June 07, 2010

25th Anniversary: Jamie Lee Curtis is Perfect

this was supposed to be a reg'lar monday monologue but i got distracted

Put down that Activia and listen up. I accidentally saw Freaky Friday again (as funny as ever) so Jamie Lee Curtis was bouncing round in me brain. Long before Curtis was regulating the nation with great yogurt (What? It works.) she was already something of an icon of health & fitness.

Perfect in Pink

Her marvelous bod first got a ton of media attention in Trading Places (1983, t'was the boobs). Most famously, the blockbuster True Lies (1994) exploited her goods with that memorable striptease sequence.

And twenty-five years ago this very day, Perfect (1985) opened. This proved to be the most literal interpretation of her 'Let's Get Physical' career thread. She even had Olivia Newton-John hair. In the film she played Jessie, "the aerobics pied piper" at the Sports Erection... excuse me... Sports Connection that Rolling Stone reporter Adam (John Travolta) is about to crucify in a big condescending expose about health clubs as the new singles bars.

Jessie is too savvy to agree to be Adam's profile subject but too enamored of the cleft chin'ed one not to bed him. This leads to one of the most ridiculous pre-sex metaphorical banter ever heard on film (warm up = foreplay and, well, you get the picture from there) and an even more ridiculous post coital scene. After their lovemaking Travolta attends Curtis's slimnastics class and for an ENTIRE FIVE MINUTES (I'm not even exaggerating by one second) we watch them doing a sweaty intense pelvic gyration routine while making ooh and aah and youaresobadyousexything faces at each other. It's hideous!

Adding to the hilarity is the lyrics of the song that's playing. "Shock me til I can't sit up I can't sit down. Oh no... temperatures higher" -- which sounds like... well, the characters might want to hit the free health clinic after their sexworkout. [Sadly it's one of the movie's only moments that's so-bad-it's-good. The film is too inert and serious overall to have become a fondly remembered Bad Movie We Love.]

Late in the movie Jessie's worst fears are confirmed about Adam and what he intends to write. She sees this heinous article on his computer AND I MUST SHOW YOU THE COMPUTER BECAUSE OF THE CRUCIAL QUESTION OF WHAT IS IT???

I don't even understand what I'm looking at. It's like a desktop computer grafted onto the back of a laptop with some sort of stand/lift on the back. And giant yellow letters, only 16 lines of them, on the screen. To erase it -- which Jessie does in anger -- she has to backspace every line. There's not even a highlight/delete function.

This movie should be placed in the Smithsonian it tells you so much you'd forgotten about the 80s. For example, I had completely forgotten that "eat shit and die" was like an every-single-day insult between friends and that people said "sleaze" instead of skank, slut or ho.

For reasons only my late 80s self comprehends, I was very obsessed with Jamie Lee Curtis's line reading of "What's so wrong with wanting to be perfect?" It's the only thing I remembered about the movie in 2010 before looking at it again. Watching it now, it's still an emotional climax but it's more blah than I'd remembered. Like the rest of the movie. It's one of those "duh" and OOH... SPEAK YOUR THEMES TO ME *HOT* moments that I sometimes like to make fun of in modern movies. Anyway, before Jamie Lee has her would be famous speech, she calls John Travolta a bitch. Which is awesome. And very non 80s of her, I think. Then she lays into the bitch.
You talked to me about Emerson and Baby Boomers and Physical Great Awakening and all you do is write a fucking little piece about people getting into each other's pants.
He whines "But every thing I wrote is true."
It's not the truth I'm worried about, it's the tone... and hurting people and using them.

You're so disgusting. How can you be nice to somebody like McKenzie and then shit on Linda? What did she ever do to you or anybody else for that matter? Nothing! What's wrong with wanting to be the best that you can be? What's so wrong with wanting to be perfect? What's wrong with wanting to be loved?

You're going to ruin her life.
The her in question is Linda played by Laraine Newman. I remember this supporting role was kind of a big deal at the time because Newman was an SNL regular and she's pretty good in a dramatic role as the desperate workout fanatic and "sleaze".

Perfect has a terrible reputation but it's actually kind of interesting in a time capsule way even though, no, it's not particularly good. It's angsty take on journalistic ethics is fairly typical of movies but it's an eye opener to watch this and remember that working out regularly was once looked down on as a fad and there's also the constant and now shocking reminder that magazine articles use to have major cultural impact. The life of a writer was certainly different.
Jessie: How many articles do you write a year?
Adam: I dunno. Ten?
Many writers nowadays have to churn out several a day. Quality and depth of research have surely suffered in this content and pageview driven new world.

But I don't mean to be a draggy downer like the film. Despite it's glum mood, it's sort of adorkable anyway since it has forgotten 80s lingo, hilariously awful 80s music, memorable 80s people (Rolling Stone founder Jan Wenner in his chubby pre-coming out days plays a Rolling Stone editor, Carly Simon cameos, Marilu Henner!) and actual 80s fashions (rather than costumed designed interpretations) all the way from single girl party wear to stripper costumes to workout clothes. You even see what we now call "mom jeans" on hot young pieces like Jamie Lee. Even Jamie Lee can't make them work. She looks better naked.

It's like these three characters (a throuple) say in the film.

"The better your body looks the more you want to take off your clothes."
Have you ever tried aerobics? Which movie most screams "authentic 80s!" to you?

Further Reading?
Adam's "Signatures: Jamie Lee Curtis"
Susan's Top Ten Movie Hookers
JA's Top Ten Actress in a Horror Film Performancess


Peggy Sue said...


James T said...

I can only think of Gremlins as the most 80's movie in my mind but it surely has to do with the fact that I've seen it many times, I like it a lot, and I haven't seen many 80's movies (period or then-contemporary ones).

That last pic is too sexually agressive for me to bear it.

Christine said...

Holy Moly, that last picture should have had some sort of warning attached to it. It does, however, represent one of the things I love about 80s movies: they are dead to shame. For me the most 80s movie is either Splash or Rhinestone, but I think Perfect might be a close third.

proletkult said...

"back to the future"! whatever... you're post is just great, never heard before and now I have to see that movie,... thanx!

Kara said...

Why do you put white font on some of your posts that's invisible unless you highlight it? Sometimes it's an asterisk, and more recently it was Michelle Pfeiffer. Any reason?


Kara -- usually it's just to add a space for aesthetics. if it's an actor's name it's because their full name does not appear in the post (usually on account of my interest in nicknames) and if their name isn't there the various feeds that link to me to IMDB and such don't link up correctly.

proletkult -- i haven't seen Back to the Future SINCE the 80s. can you believe it. I know that's odd considering how often some people watch it. I should give it another spin.

Christine and James T -- and that's just a background image. They aren't even important to the scene and they're like that

Anonymous said...

The parts of "Safe" where Julianne Moore's character goes to the aerobics class and the ladies tell her how she doesn't sweat. It's because her character wasn't doing the exercises properly.

OBloodyHell said...

C'mon, nothing screams "80s!" like The Breakfast Club.

It was the movie of the 80s for a generation of tweenties (people in their teens to early 20s)

Cluster Funk said...

I love Perfect (and am unashamed). But with lines like, "I guess I'll go see if I can scare up a gang-bang," how can you not? How can you not?!

Plus, I love Berlin and 'Masquerade,' which is perfectly (no pun intended) set to music here:


Glenn Dunks said...

The movies made outside of the '80s that have the most authentic '80s aesthetic are [safe] and This is England.

As dodgy as it is, I think A Chorus Line is a very '80s product. Much like Perfect it is filled with aerobics gear, big hair and lots of '80s-sounding dialogue.

Craig said...

Valley Girl (Coolidge/1983) always does it for me.

Pedro said...

I think that machine in the photo is a word processor. According to Wikipedia "Word processor may also refer to a type of stand-alone office machine, popular in the 1970s and 80s, combining the keyboard text-entry and printing functions of an electric typewriter with a dedicated processor (like a computer processor) for the editing of text. Although features and design varied between manufacturers and models, with new features added as technology advanced, word processors for several years usually featured a monochrome display and the ability to save documents on memory cards or diskettes."

I know it because my sister had one in the 80's. It looked like a typewriter, but with a small screen, and she could save her writing in a diskette.

Jason Adams said...

I was actually holding a cup of Activia when I read that first line, Nat, and I almost instinctively put it down because you commanded me to. Then my brain turned back on. But still, you owned me for a moment, Rogers!

Also I love that while geeks like me were celebrating the 25th anniversary of Goonies you switched it up with some Perfect love, of all things. Wonderful!

Burning Reels said...

That gentleman's bulge in the last image cannot be real!


@PEDRO -- that's totally what it is, then! Thanks for the edification. Although I wish this post could have been 3,000 words long because there is so much i did not share.

like for example. when Travolta is typing on that thing he says to Curtis "have you ever used a computer?"
HAHAHAHA could you imagine that sentence in a movie today?

she says "i took a couple of classes."

people didn't use to come out of the womb with basic computer skills.

there's also a weird BOY GEORGE wannbe moment with a bunch of fans dressed as Mr. O'Down shouting "WE WANT BOY"

I'm not even making this up.

@BURNING REELS -- i know.haha. it totally reminds one of that ballet scene in "Top Secret"

@JA -- i figured Goonies would get the love. The funny thign is i actually rented it to join in (and see why people love it cuz i DO NOT) and then i couldn't pull myself away from PERFECT.

Bill C said...

First off, you folks make me feel so f'in' old because I didn't need to Google that Martian-looking device to tell me it is indeed a word processor, i.e., a computer that only runs Word; my best friend owned one and continued to use it well into the '90s, although his had more edit functions. (I owned a similar thing that was a typewriter with a little flip-up monochromatic screen, which allowed you to use the machine as either a word processor or an electric typewriter.) Good God, this is worse than when my niece asked me what VHS tapes were for.

Second, to Nathaniel: Have you ever read John Travolta's on-set diary from PERFECT, which was published in...drumroll..."Rolling Stone"? I don't remember much from it, except the part where Travolta stews over the appropriate time to bang Jamie Lee Curtis offscreen, because he blew it with Debra Winger by waiting too long.


omg. i must read that. I do not remember that from 1985 at all. But i was too young for the movie when it came out. I think i saw it on vhs in 87?

it's really like one big long commercial for Rolling Stone as cultural force though. all the way to the logo of Perfect (same font as Rolling Stone)

Volvagia said...

While it may be The Breakfast Club for those who were in their teens and twenties at the time, I wouldn't be surprised if Local Hero signifies those same things for many of those who were in their mid-thirties-early forties at the time. (Oil, Mermaids, Beaches, an aged idol of their youth (Lancaster) and a sense of humour (human, subtle and close to life) soon to be buried with the precise vernaculars of Daniel Waters, Tarantino and Diablo Cody.)

Bill C said...

Lest I make myself sound older than Father Time, I actually didn't read that "Rolling Stone" article 'til a few years after it was published, when I found it in my high-school library. I feel like going back there now to see if they still have it.

My vote for the quintessential '80s movie: ROCKY IV. Cold War anxiety, endless MTV montages, a robot butler, bodybuilding fetishism, Vince DiCola...what more could you ask for in a time capsule?

Alison Flynn said...


It's everything that the 80's were about in one movie, right down to the videogames they played in the movie.

Volvagia said...

With you on The Goonies, Nat. Even among "young in the '80s" indulgences, Gremlins, Time Bandits and Baron Munchausen would probably hold up better to genuine critical analysis. (Lost Boys is another iffy one, especially if you level Feldman's work there against his in Stand By Me, which I'd rank as Best Child Performance EVER.)