' ' Cinema Romantico: Wistfully ’95: Mad Love

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wistfully ’95: Mad Love

In 1995 I could finally both drive and get into R-rated movies. This meant 1995 was the year in which I fell head over heels in love for the experience of Going To The Movies and so, here in the future, throughout the year, we will occasionally re-visit a handful of the offerings to which I first paid homage in various multiplex cathedrals of Des Moines, Iowa.


April 1995 would have been an, uh, interesting juncture in Drew Barrymore’s career. She was just emerging from a jaw-dropping rebellious phase of mischief and mayhem at such a tender age that she would have sent the Mean Girls scampering to the local church lock-in from fear and poised for a re-invention as a relentlessly likable kind of bohemian presence on screen aptly summarized in her forthcoming production company’s moniker of Flower Films. A woman who America’s movie grandfather Steven Spielberg tried to spur toward redemption when she posed for Playboy by sending a note that purportedly pleaded for her to “cover up” would, only a couple years later, redeem Adam Sandler with one of the most winsome performances the maudlin world of rom coms has ever seen. (Search your heart. You know it to be true.)

Of course, she still had some of that old teen rebel in her yet, evinced by her infamous appearance on David Letterman’s Late Show when she ascended his desk to, uh, well, let’s see, bid him a birthday of extravagant mirth by revealing a pair of her most precious bodily adornments. You can find this image all over the vast reaches of the Interwebs and you can access video of it at the throw of a pencil through a fake window behind you. What you can’t seem to find is the interview itself, and I admit the interview itself intrigues because I wonder if Ms. Barrymore was at the Ed Sullivan Theater to promote “Mad Love.” It’s possible that Drew was there to discuss “Batman Forever”, in which she had a small part and which opened that June, and it’s possible that she talked about “Boys on the Side”, which would have opened back in February, and it’s possible that they didn’t talk about much at all except Dave’s sudden sensory overload. But “Mad Love” was set to open in less than a month-and-a-half when Drew hopped up on that desk.

“Mad Love” might be described as a sort of grunge-era “Badlands”, a star cross’d romance of lovers on the lam in which Barrymore's Manic Depressive Dream Girl is broken out of the mental hospital by straight-laced, straight-A-earning Matt Leland (Chris O'Donnell) so they can flee, as you do, for ol’ Mexico. Oh, it might be simplistic in its view of depression, reducing so much of it to domineering machinations of meanie parents, but to watch the performances and the very real layers the two performers provide their characters counteracts all its contrivances and soppy sentimentalizing.

It’s smart enough not to simply “cure” her “affliction” on account of Matt’s selfless love, knowing full well such a battle takes more than petty larceny, gauzy looks and ninety minutes. O'Donnell is an earnest actor but finding earnest roles in an un-earnest shark tank like Hollywood can be difficult, which I suspect has led to an erratic career. Here his sweetness is laser-focused on helping his true teenage beloved get better, and he deals with her mood swings in a credible way. And even if those mood swings of Barrymore's character are sometimes manufactured to gun the engines of the plot they never feel manufactured to gun the engines of the plot because Barrymore makes them feel very much like a person lashing out against something brewing deep within her that she doesn’t understand and can’t control.

For most of the decade prior to “Mad Love” it sure seemed as if Barrymore herself was lashing out against something she didn’t understand and couldn’t control, forced to navigate the daunting culture of celebrity at too young an age essentially all on her own. It’s ridiculous to simply suggest that the character in “Mad Love” was her just as it’s ridiculous to suggest that “Mad Love” was a harbinger of Drew coming around and growing into herself and becoming the ultra-successful, down-to-earth, insanely likable woman she is. These flickering myths beamed up onto giant screens, however, have always afforded a level of wish fulfillment. Some more than others, and I can remember, as someone whose first movie-going memory was “E.T.”, featuring a seven year old Barrymore, watching “Mad Love” and wishing with all my might that Drew, like her character, would somehow, some way, at some point, be all right.


Wretched Genius said...

The full interview.


And it appears she was promoting absolutely nothing.

Nick Prigge said...

Well, that was apparently easy to find. Almost as if I psychologically didn't want to.

I like the interviews where they don't shoehorn in promotions.

Alex Withrow said...

Oh man, I forgot about this movie. But you're so right, at that time, you just wanted to make sure poor Drew was gonna be all right.