I read the review of the NBC remake in Friday's New York Times. I still don't know how the critic felt about Zoe Saldana's lead performance. That review didn't tell you much about the actors in the highly promoted NBC production. It was a high-tone piece of writing that told you more about France, the locale for the new version, than it did about the remake. It did not leave me satisfied with information.
Let me put it like this: When I lived in New York City, a friend invited me to have lunch with her. I was up for a good hearty lunch. She chose a restaurant in a ritzy Fifth Avenue department store. I wanted a cheeseburger. This restaurant was so fancy that the cheeseburger came out looking like it was putting on airs. No buns. The slim burger was served on an English muffin. The cheese was Gruyere. Behind a large leaf of Arugula lettuce were a few very thin julienne fries lying around loose as if they didn't care. Like supermodels on deck furniture at a Fire Island summer home for the weekend. I ate the burger, but I wasn't satisfied.
That night, I went to a favorite diner in my working class neighborhood. I had a cheeseburger deluxe. A bigger burger with a heap of thicker fries and for less money than that fancy burger-ette on Fifth Avenue. I was satisfied.
That New York Times review was like the Gruyere cheeseburger on an English muffin.
Here's part of it:
"France is inherently risky for visitors. As the works of Henry James and Diane Johnson, author of 'Le Divorce,' attest, all kinds of bad things happen to Americans in Paris. If the Devil is going to return for an encore, it's surely more likely to be in the city of Dominique Strauss-Kahn than in the one run by Bill de Blasio."
Umm...OK. But how's the acting? Is Ms. Saldana as effective as Ms. Farrow was? I still didn't know.
"And because it's Paris, it is possible to wonder, at least for a while, if maybe the problem is Rosemary, not her neighbors, who seem so serenely superior and all knowing.
As Ms. Johnson's heroine put it in 'Le Divorce,' describing Frenchwomen's inability ever to be shocked or surprised: "It's the French nature to say, 'Of course,' as if perfidy is to be expected, even planned by grand design."
I still don't know how the critic felt about Zoe Saldana's performance. I know more about Diane Johnson's "Le Divorce" than I know about how Saldana rates as Rosemary. Mia Farrow is one of those Hollywood film veterans who, shockingly, has never received an Oscar nomination. Not for any of her golden performances in Woody Allen films. Mia's performance in the original Rosemary's Baby was ripe for a Best Actress Oscar nomination. How does the remake work with the husband now an aspiring novelist instead of a struggling actor who would sell his soul to the Devil for that one star-making break?
Oh, well. Maybe I can see it for myself tonight and Thursday.
As for that part about "...all kinds of bad things happen to Americans in Paris," here are 5 classic film rental tips from me in which Paris produces wonderful things.
1. Midnight. This tasty comedy is one of those many excellent movies released in Hollywood's great year, 1939. It's a twist on the Cinderella tale with a screenplay co-written by Billy Wilder and directed by Mitchell Leisen. Claudette Colbert is a chorus girl stranded and broke in Paris.
This MGM musical boldly and brilliantly ends with a long, gorgeous ballet to Gershwin's "An American in Paris." In includes visual inspiration of the French artists who inspired Jerry, the American painter. I love the Lautrec portion of the ballet.
Poitier's character loves his native country but he can get more respect and acceptance as a black man in Paris than he can in America. Romance will come into the lives of the two guys in the form of a two girlfriends on vacation in Paris from the U.S. These two best friends are played by Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll. Yes, another interracial pair of best friends. And the white jazzman throws a classy flirt at the sophisticated, lovely black tourist. That was really new for American films back then.
And Armstrong's jam session...Ooh, baby! That's why he was a legend. Thank you, Martin Ritt, for treating Louie Armstrong like the American music master he was. In Paris Blues, he's not a sidekick with a horn like he was in several movies of the 1930s and 40s. This movie role gave Armstrong major respect.
There you are -- five films in which good things happens to Americans in Paris.