The Woman in Red

The Woman in Red. Orion Pictures Corporation 1984.
The Woman in Red. Orion Pictures Corporation 1984.

Before watching the movie:

This is billed as a comedy, but it sounds like it could be more serious. How many moody dramas follow the dissolution of a marriage because the man had his head turned by a beautiful woman? The summaries point out that he’s happily married at the start, which makes it sound sadder.

On the other hand, a lot of comedies track the beginning of a relationship at the expense of another, and Wilder would do well at the flustered sort of unfaithful man like the type in The Seven Year Itch.

After watching the movie:

In the parking garage on his way to work, Teddy Pierce sees a devastatingly beautiful woman in a flowing red dress stop over an air vent to enjoy the updraft. From that moment, although he’s still happy with his wife, he’s bewitched by this woman, and can think of nothing but scheming his way into bed with her, leading to a series of lies, setbacks, humiliations, and unlikely successes.

I wasn’t sure for a while, but this is a story where the audience isn’t supposed to want what the protagonist wants. His wife Didi is (mostly) a sympathetic character who is a great match for Teddy, and pursuing Charlotte gives Teddy nothing but trouble. I feel better about the movie having realized that, because I spent the entire story wondering if I was supposed to be rooting for the stalker/philanderer.I still don’t understand why Charlotte didn’t buy a bottle of pepper spray after the second time he made a fool of himself trying to chat her up.

For a large part of the movie, it felt like all the men were free agents sneaking around their wives and having fun and the women were passively being duped and pursued. Around halfway through the movie, Charlotte decides to actually take part in the story and becomes an agent herself, but only enough to make me stop thinking about the gender politics being presented.

Unfortunately, the point where Charlotte gets directly involved is the point where Gilda Radner’s character (whom Teddy mistakenly asked to dinner over the phone and then stood up) drops out. I enjoyed her wrath as a consequence of Teddy’s actions, and I’m disappointed that he never seemed to figure out why she was angry at him.

 

Watch this movie: as the process of a mistake rightly destroying a decent guy’s life.

Don’t watch this movie: for any completely likeable characters.

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