Written by Hombre Divertido
Few performers can rival the career of Cher and few can fill their case with the awards she has received including an Academy Award, a Grammy, an Emmy, and more. Not only does she hold the Hot 100 record for the longest hit-making career span with 33 years between the release of her first and most recent number one singles, she also starred in her first motion picture (Good Times) in 1967 and returns to the big screen in 2010’s Burlesque.
It is the release of Burlesque that prompts MGM to package six of the actresses performance into Cher: The Film Collection which hit shelves on November 2nd 2010. Though the set does not include some of the films you may expect such as Mask; The Witches of Eastwick; and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmie Dean, Jimmie Dean, the set does provide one with the evolution of an actress. The exclusion of the above-mentioned films certainly has more to do with studio politics than with their respective worthiness.
The films in the collection include six films for the true Cher fan, but only three for movie fans. Opening with Good Times we are introduced to Cher, and then husband and performing partner Sonny Bono, playing themselves trying to come up with an idea for a movie in which they can star and thus capitalize on the fame currently being generated by their hit records. Good Times combines the camp of the era’s beach movies with the sketch comedy that Sonny and Cher would display in their hit television show. The comedy sketches on the The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour usually lasted about five minutes, which is how much actual good time can be found in this bomb.
Two years later Sonny would write and produce Chastity in an attempt to showcase Cher as a serious actress. Unfortunately the film showcases a lack of writing and direction, and Cher appears to be wandering aimlessly through the film in both character and performance.
Luckily for Cher, she would stay away from the big screen for more than ten years. The absence allows the few movie-goers who experienced Good Times and Chastity time to get over those weak efforts, and time for Cher to grow as an actress. Though it does not appear to be a big stretch for her, Cher’s performance in Silkwood displays substantial growth from her previous endeavors and garnered her a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Silkwood is a powerful film that clearly belongs to Meryl Streep, who portrays Karen Silkwood, the nuclear facility worker who takes on a huge corporation. Despite Silkwood being a starring vehicle for Streep, Cher holds her own alongside both Streep and Kurt Russell.
Two years later, Cher would cement herself as a leading lady in Mask. Unfortunately it is not included in this collection. Up to this point there was a similarity in the characters Cher portrayed, but in 1987 she would truly show her range by starring in The Witches of Eastwick, Suspect, and Moonstruck. The latter being the only one of the three included in this collection, and clearly the gem in Cher’s storied career as she sheds all pre-conceived notions as to who she is and what she can do in this Academy Award-winning performance. Cher portrays Italian widow Loretta with subtle brilliance in this Norman Jewison-directed romantic comedy that also features Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, and Vincent Gardenia.
Unfortunately Cher would follow Moonstruck three years later with the disappointing Mermaids. Though surrounded by a talented cast including Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci, and the always enjoyable Bob Hoskins, Mermaids drowns amidst a sea of eighties tripe. This pointless story follows single-mom Cher and her two daughters (Ryder and Ricci) from town to town as Cher attempts to avoid scandal. Mermaids is full of squandered potential in both storytelling and performance, as all lack development.
The Film Collection is rounded out by Tea with Mussolini; an elegant endeavor set in pre-WWII Florence Italy where the elite meet. Surrounded by a legendary cast of actresses including Dame Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, and Lily Tomlin, Cher plays an American performer and lover of art who invades the serenity of the English ladies environment, and eventually becomes their savior amidst the outbreak of war. Tea with Mussolini is an investment as it takes time for the story to develop and to appreciate Cher’s performance as her portrayal of the brash American is so strong, that it seems jarringly out of place in the first hour of this stylish film.
Though a perfect Christmas present for any Cher fan, and certainly priced to move, this new offering may struggle during the holiday-shopping season simply due to an audience that already owns the popular inclusions, and has no interest in films they quite possibly have not heard of. The lack of bonus material does not help the situation.
There are certainly fans of Mermaids out there that will balk at the review, but it is Silkwood, Moonstruck, and Tea with Mussolini that make this collection worth owning. Good Times and Chastity are fun for a few minutes simply to see the early years, but not worth owning.
Recommendation: Buy the collection if you don’t already own the films, and give away Good Times and Chastity as white elephant gifts.