Cher’s a pretty easy target for ridicule. Of all the jabs that Ricky Gervais took during the Golden Globes, his dismissal of Cher was perhaps the laziest. After all, from the middling pop rock she produced with Sonny Bono to more recent and more risible forays into dance efforts, Cher’s musical career teeters along the edge of self-parody without much help from comedians.
Cher’s career as an actress is a bit of a different story. There’s still comedy fodder to be found, but given the right material, she can succeed both in comedy and drama. To coincide with the release of Burlesque, Fox has repackaged six previously available MGM titles into a shiny pink box titled Cher: The Film Collection. You won’t find three of Cher’s most noted films here — Warner Brothers’ Mask and The Witches of Eastwick and the criminally unavailable-on-DVD Robert Altman film Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean — but the collection offers a chance to see Cher’s career progress from insubstantial farce to serious drama.
The first title is Good Times, which is probably most notable for being William Friedkin’s directorial debut. He would go on to much better than this. Sonny and Cher star as themselves in a loosely connected series of sketches that parody various movie genres. It’s uninspired, but probably not worse than the next film, Chastity, which fails miserably in its attempts at serious storytelling. Written and produced by Sonny, the film follows Cher as a hitchhiker traveling the country looking for love.
Deterred by the failure of Chastity, Cher took the ’70s off from acting, but returned the following decade with a string of her greatest films, including Mike Nichols’s Silkwood, which dramatizes the true story of power plant worker Karen Silkwood, who died under mysterious circumstances. The film, which was nominated for five Oscars, is certainly a vehicle for Meryl Streep, who played the titular character, but Cher is impressive as she disappears into the supporting role of Karen’s roommate Dolly. Establishing herself as a reliable supporting presence in this and Jimmy Dean certainly led to the leading role success that soon followed.