Sunday, October 05, 2014

A Not-So-Perfect 10

George (Dudley Moore): If you were dancing with your wife, or girlfriend you knew in high school, and you said to her, 'Darling, they're playing our song,' do you know what they'd be playing?

Don (Brian Dennehy): What?

George: 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road.'

Appropriately, Blake Edwards' "10," which made its debut 35 years ago today and had a wedding as its subtext, offered something — or, rather, someone — old and something (someone) new. (The something borrowed and something blue parts might apply, too. Kinda depends on how those terms are defined.)

Bo Derek, the comely co–star, wasn't exactly new to movie audiences — but she might as well have been. Her very first movie appearance was also rather brief — 1977's "Orca." Audiences didn't have a lot of time to see her in that one.

"10" was her second movie, and it gave her considerably more exposure. It doesn't appear to have led to better roles in better movies, though. Seems that "10" was the high point of her career.

According to her co–star, Dudley Moore, she was a perfect 10. Hence, the title.

Whether she really was a perfect 10 was — as beauty always is — in the eye of the beholder. But there was certainly a widespread public impression that she was. After being in "10," Derek was featured naked in men's magazines and appeared in movies that always seemed to show her in varying stages of undress; to be fair, perhaps there were exceptions to that, but none come to mind. (After awhile, she kind of faded from public view, seemingly having cashed in on her 15 minutes of fame.) Her braided hairstyle was adopted by young girls across the nation.

America was in the grip of a full–fledged Bo frenzy. "10" made her a superstar.

Moore, on the other hand, wasn't new. He had been appearing in movies for more than 10 years, and many moviegoers probably recognized his face, but he only managed to make his career breakthrough with "10," which he followed with "Arthur" a couple of years later. For awhile there, Moore, too, was a superstar.

In "10," Moore played a middle–aged man who was going through a midlife crisis. He seemed to have everything a man could want — a successful career, a beautiful home, a Rolls–Royce, a beautiful girlfriend (Julie Andrews). But it wasn't enough.

He fell victim to that nagging suspicion that nearly everyone must have at some point — that life was passing him by. As is so often the case with men, a big part of his melancholy had to do with his belief that an exciting sex life was history for him.

He found himself stealing glances at provocatively dressed young girls as they walked along the street, then looking away if it seemed they were on to him, and he was jealous of a neighbor he watched through his telescope. This neighbor seemed to be having orgies every day and every night.

One day, Moore caught a glimpse of Derek on her way to her wedding — and was smitten with her. (She wasn't actually a 10, he told his therapist. More like an 11.)

So smitten that he followed the newlyweds on their honeymoon to Mexico — and wound up rescuing the groom, who had fallen asleep on his surfboard and drifted out to sea.

The groom wasn't injured — in spite of a near–encounter with a shark — but he was badly sunburned and had to spend a couple of days in the hospital.

In his absence, Moore's character gallantly paid Derek a visit and took her out to dinner. Upon their return to her room, she started to seduce him (which took little effort) — and kicked off a modest boom in popularity for Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" in the process.

It was ironic, I suppose, that "10" came to be closely associated with "Bolero." The movie's only Oscar nominations were for its music — Best Original Score and Best Original Song, both the work of Henry Mancini.

As Derek and Moore were becoming intimate, the phone rang. It was the groom, and he spoke to both, apparently never guessing what he had interrupted.

When the phone call was over, Moore's character began having second thoughts and realized that the sexual relationship meant something completely different to Derek than it did to him. Maybe it was a generational thing. Anyway, he returned to America and tried to resume his previous relationship, reconciling with Andrews.

I guess that was the most surprising (and, in many ways, most rewarding) twist of all for me. It may seem hackneyed now, but, when I first saw it, it was surprising that, with the buildup for the movie, Moore chose in the end to stick with the faithful lover.

Maturity and personal values won over immaturity and impulsive infatuation. Moore's character was more mature than anyone guessed. Who knew?

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Dee Wallace, whom I have admired for many years. She is primarily known for roles that featured her more prominently, particularly as the young mother in "E.T.," and, more often than not, I have thought that she did quite well, but her performance in a supporting role in "10" really was remarkable, even by her own standards.

Wallace played a young woman who met Moore on his impulse trip to Mexico, and they hit it off in the hotel lounge. They returned to his room where they started to make love — but Moore's character was obsessed with Derek, and he was unable to perform with Wallace. She took it personally, and Moore tried to tell her it was a mistake to take it that way.

Wallace tried to relieve Moore of any guilt, explaining that something like that had happened with another boyfriend — who had since married and fathered several children. She told him not to blame himself, and there was something genuinely moving about her assertion that "Some of us just don't bring out the man in men." That was a reminder of the often unrealistic expectations we — and society — place on ourselves.

It was a stark contrast to the mood of the rest of the movie, which sometimes bordered on exploitation of Derek and other sexy young bodies. But the script was smarter than that. It managed to resist the temptation to pander. And it offered a generous helping of surprises, like Wallace's introspective observation and Moore's principled decency.

I thought Wallace deserved a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but she didn't get one.

Frankly, I always thought it was ironic that Derek came to be regarded as a sex symbol after appearing in "10." Other actresses in the movie (some of them uncredited) showed far more skin than Derek did. Through the first three–quarters of the movie, her most revealing scenes were in a decidedly unsexy one–piece swimsuit (ironically, CNN's Emanuella Grinberg recently asserted that the one–piece is staging a comeback), and her nude scenes with Moore were dimly lit.

Perhaps it was an example of the triumph of effective marketing.