Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Easy Money (1983)

Rodney Dangerfield quits the smoking, drinking, gambling, and crap one-liners in a cromulant bid to win his mother in law's heart (read: cash) in a film that was memorably described by the Denver Examiner as being 'as much fun as pushing a donkey up a ladder'...

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Easy Money (1983 James Signorelli)

Starring: Rodney Dangerfield, Joe Pesci, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey Jones, Fiddle Viracola, Filomena Spagnuolo.

Box Markings:
No respect.

‘I was happy being a big, fat slob, but for $10 million… I’ll give up everything!’

Remo Williams: Unarmed and Dangerous, Delta Force, Defence of the Realm

Cherrypick: “I didn’t want to see her fucking face!”

There is, of course, a bold irony to the title of this 1983 laugh-massacre in which bug-eyed, fast-talking quipster Rodney Dangerfield proves to the world that he truly was one of a kind in the same way that there was nobody quite like Mussolini. The stillborn conception of his first starring role seems to have been purely to sate a world chomping at the bit for some Danger-vs-Mother-in-Law battle of the titans, and with his Hawaiian shirt and quasi-disfigured face in tow (the result of a 1978 nerve gas attack by a heckler who wasn’t impressed by the “Have you seen my new dinghy?” quip he opened with), Dangerfield duly turns in a performance only a mother (in law?) could love.
Rodney clocks Pesci's pomade allowance
Once upon a New York suburb, Monty Capiletti (Rodney) expertly balances life as a loving husband and father-of-two with smoking crack through his daughter’s eyebrow curlers and driving around Queens in a soft-top Bedford Rascal with his buddy - homicidal plumber Joe Pesci. When his rich mother-in-law snuffs it in a freak glider accident, Monty and wife are promised the princely sum of ten million bucks, but only if he can give up the smoking, drinking, gambling, and cut the crap one-liners. The catch? If he can’t manage it, the money goes to the plot’s effeminate handmaiden, Principle Rooney.

Underpinning all of this baloney is a story* concerning Monty’s my-heart-belongs-to-daddy daughter who unwittingly marries a Latino rapist (‘The Tex-Mex Hex’) whose idea of a honeymoon is whisking his bride off to hotel with all the charm of a garbage barge and jumping her ignorant bones with a ‘Joy of Sex’ manual wedged between his teeth. All this to gain the dubious pleasure of repeatedly asking Dangerfield if he can “call him Dad?”
The Magnificent Spangles
Unsurprisingly, even when Monty is making good progress with his Faustian life-pact, there is an overriding sense that if he doesn’t get those child-baring lips around a Camel filterless and a cream horn full of marinara sauce in the next ten minutes, it’s upstairs with a copy of ‘In Utero’ for a warm bath and bit of razorblade mambo. The scene in which he’s reduced to eating lettuce and making an Airfix model at his kitchen table reeks more of a man planning a High School shooting than one well down the road to netting some readies, although he does retain good humour enough to lighten the mood with the delicious line, “Honey, could you clean up my Messerschmitt?” Arf!

Well, they somehow get their fuck-you money, buy a boat and, with Rooney left to choke on his provolone canap├ęs, they triumphantly sail down to the Scumbag Riviera of Coney Island, where, in a symphonic coda of visual shorthand, the Dangerman is last seen reclining (head of the fuckin’ table, natch) in a shirt with twenties printed all over it while a nubile Geisha delivers him a Bud Light served in a chocolate log – and to whom he diarrheas over 2000 years of tradition by asking her to ‘come back when she’s had some sun’.

“My mother-in-law!” he at length reflects to camera. “For years I wouldn't kiss her face; I end up kissing her ass!”

It’s a telling closing gambit, one that leaves the viewer to question who, if anyone, actually won the war? Or, in fact, if there ever really was a war there to be won…


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