Just by looking at the two actresses it should be easy to guess that I will talk about a comedy today. Outrageous Fortune is not exactly highly acclaimed, and I can kind of see why. It is at its very core a very simple and kind of predictable story which requires a lot of suspension of disbelieve. It has one of the worst title sequence I have ever seen and the last scene lacks any proper built-up. And yet, I really like this movie. Mostly because of the way the two main actresses play off each other.
Lauren Ames (Shelley Long) is what I would call an overachiever who hasn’t achieved anything in her life yet. Coming from a privileged background, she has studied and educated herself in acting, and is used to being top of her class. Her big dream is to play Hamlet one day. But she never actually got an acting job so far, instead she is working as a sales girl when she isn’t busy perfecting her craft.
One day she is preparing for an audition for the change to partake in acting lessons by a famous stage legend when Sandy Brozinsky (Bette Midler) storms into the office. Borrowing the phone she calls the phone company, telling the guy on the line a bunch of lies in order to prevent her phone getting shut off for unpaid bills. Lauren, already high-strung out of nervousness and unable to stand her loud behaviour, intervenes when Sandy wants to make a second phone call. The two woman have a brief face-off during which it turns out that Sandy recently made some money by acting in a movie called “Ninja Vixen”. Spontaneously she decides to audition, too, and to Lauren’s ire she not only gets accepted, but with a stipend to boot. What both woman don’t know: They are in a relationship with the same man.
To summon up the movie: The first act is about the dislike those two woman feel towards each other, in which the movie takes great care to flesh out their characters – and to be honest, both of them are not particularly likable, even to the audience. It is not like they are annoying either, but the lecturing know-it-all and the lying and loud bragger are not exactly the type of persons most people would pick as friends. It is easy to understand why those two would clash.
In the second act starts when the two discover that they have been seeing the same man. Normally I would resist the notion that two woman, who just discovered that they have been cheated on would bother to fight over a guy like this, or going to great length to find him. In this case though, it works (mostly), because this is less about the guy in question and more about the dislike the two feel for each other. Motivated by their rivalry they both hunt the guy down and on their way, they discover that they kind of like each other after all.
My favourite is the third act, though, because that’s where the most thoughtful moments of the movie are. Lauren might be brittle, and Sandy might be brash, but once you get a glimpse behind the façade, you realise that they are both way more than that. Seeing them working together and developing a deep friendship and triumph in the end is the part which makes the movie worth a watch.
Sandy: “Actors are just bullshitters who get paid.”
Lauren: “Nine years of ballet, asshole!”
With comedies, it is always a matter if one likes this brand of humour. If you like either of the main actresses, this should be fun for you, though.