As a kid who grew up in the 1960’s I remember Cher mostly for her musical career and the music and variety show she shared with then-husband Sonny Bono. When they split, it was a big deal in the time. We didn’t quite follow celebrities’, lives near as obsessively as is done today, but these guys were a power couple that had gained fame pretty much as a package deal. When they split Sonny wasn’t very successful at maintaing the same level as Cher was able to do. It turned out that we took sides in the split. We kept buying Cher’s records, and we sent Sonny to Congress. Not sure which was the better idea there.
Cher eventually turned her singing career into a pretty good acting career. Her years in television had given her a lot of experience in front of the camera, so it wasn’t as much of a stretch as you might think. The movies she’s appeared in have been a bit of a mixed bag of stuff. The same can be said for this collection. There are gems like Moonstruck and Tea With Mussolini, and there are odd tidbits like Chastity and Mermaids.
Here’s how the studio describes each film along with our take:
Good Times (1967) Run Time: 91 minutes
In their one and only movie together, singing duo Sonny and Cher star in this “happy” (The Hollywood Reporter), “affectionate” (Los Angeles Times) and “loveably surreal” (American Cinematheque) film about – who else? –Sonny and Cher! An “impressive directorial debut” (The Hollywood Reporter) from Oscar® winner* William Friedkin, with a hilarious script by Tony Barrett, Good Times is good, great and downright groovy! Husband-and-wife singers Sonny and Cher couldn’t be hotter – they even have an offer to star in a movie! Trouble is, Cher doesn’t want to do it, and the script stinks. Now Sonny has ten days to write a new script. He has great ideas but he still has to convince his dynamite babe to sing the same tune!
*1971: Director, The French Connection
This was the directorial debut of William Friedkin. Of course it was! Obviously the man who would go on to direct The Exorcist and The French Connection would get his start with Sonny and Cher. Actually, although the “plot” is a Monkees-style excuse to dress our duo up in wacky costumes and have them sing songs, the movie isn’t that bad. There are some amusing lines and pratfalls (all at Sonny’s expense, whose film this is — Cher is very much a supporting character here). Though I’m not surprised that the normally garrulous Friedkin didn’t supply a commentary on this film (and he has on even such dreck as The Guardian), he nevertheless holds the thing together with crisp professionalism, and the result is nowhere near as gruesome as it might have been.
Chastity (1969) Run Time: 83 minutes
Cher “makes an impressive debut” (Motion Picture Herald) as a reckless rebel who’s taking the fast lane on the road to nowhere! Written and produced by Sonny Bono, Chastity is a gritty, gutsy ride through a powerful, emotional landscape filled with love, adventure, tragedy and truth. Desperate to escape her dark past, wild child Chastity (Cher) hits the streets on a quest for freedom only to find herself launched on an electrifying odyssey of self-discovery. But as she thumbs her way cross-country and ends up at a seedy brothel in Mexico with fewer and fewer option she finally begins to see that the only safe place to run is into the arms of the one man who truly loves her.
This was pretty much the peak of the Sonny and Cher career as Sonny was the guiding force for the film. Unfortunately, it becomes too self-indulgent and Cher looks awkward through most of the film. You almost get the idea the movie was nothing more but a chance to capitalize on the duo’s fame which was reaching its peak at this time. The situations are just too contrived, and I couldn’t lose myself in this movie for a moment. Sonny can’t help winking at both his wife and the audience.
Silkwood (1983) Run Time: 131 minutes
Meryl Streep is “stunning” (The New York Times) in this shocking true story about one woman’s struggle against a huge corporation. Nominated for five Academy Awards®, including Best Actress (Streep) and Best Supporting Actress (Cher), this daring, provocative and critically acclaimed drama just “shouldn’t be missed” (Newsweek)! Karen Silkwood (Streep) lives a free-spirited existence with two friends (Kurt Russell and Cher) who work with her at an Oklahoma nuclear facility. It’s only when she discovers she’s been exposed to radiation that Karen’s conscience awakens, and soon she is digging for evidence of wrongdoing at her company. But her sudden zeal for safer working conditions may come at a high price as she alienates friends and possibly even puts her own life in peril.
Streep is backed up by fine performances from Kurt Russell and Cher, but Nichols takes his own sweet time with the direction.
Moonstruck (1987) Run Time: 102 minutes
Fall under the delightful spell of Moonstruck, the mesmerizing romantic comedy from director Norman Jewison (Fiddler on the Roof) and Oscar® winner* John Patrick Shanley. Cher, in her Oscar®-winning** performance, along with Nicolas Cage and Olympia Dukakis excel in this explosively funny tale, which also features flawless performances by Danny Aiello, Vincent Gardenia and Frasier’s John Mahoney. Cher is “devastatingly funny, sinuous and beautiful” (Pauline Kael) as Loretta, an unlucky in love Italian widow who finds romance through the intervention of the Manhattan moon. With her wedding just weeks away, she meets and falls hopelessly in love with the groom’s younger brother (Cage). Her dilemma and her equally passionate and hilariously eccentric family make for an unforgettable film you’ll find “beguiling” (Time), “enchanting” (Newsweek) and “irresistible” (“Today Show”).
*1987: Best Original Screenplay, Moonstruck
**1987: Best Actress, Moonstruck
Moonstruck is a modern film, which uses the model of classical Italian comedies as its primary structure. In fact, some elements are directly lifted from the divine comedies of yore, but Norman Jewison’s direction, along with a top-notch script and a terrific cast, lend a freshness not seen in the romantic by-products of today, which make the film more homage than rip-off. For one, the story centers on a 37-year old widow (Cher) – not your common leading lady role – whose superstitions dictate her happiness. She agrees to marry an older man, whom she admittedly doesn’t love, just to bring some structure and stability to her life. Then, she meets her fiancé’s estranged younger brother, and a spark ignites that turns her world upside down… in a good way. The eccentricities of her Italian-American family are mined to perfection with both warmth and humor. The film explores how cruel the closest people can be to one another without wrapping viewers up in any negativity. I can finally see what the critics were raving about – a good, solid film.
Mermaids (1990) Run Time: 110 minutes
Cher is “magical [and] electric” (The Hollywood Reporter), Winona Ryder “enchanting and funny” (The New York Times) and Christina Ricci “adorable and engaging” (Variety) in this hilarious and heartwarming portrait of a 1960s single-parent family trying to adjust to each other’s growing independence. Charlotte (Ryder) is an adolescent girl torn between her blossoming passions for a handsome caretaker (Michael Schoeffling)… and her desire to be a nun (a tough calling for a girl who’s Jewish). Complicating her already precarious teen angst is a little sister (Ricci), a determined would-be swimmer she affectionately calls fishhead, and their mother (Cher), a non-traditional, sexy, flamboyant woman who relocates them to a new town every time she causes a hint of scandal, which is often. But even as their personal styles clash, these three incredibly different individuals begin to see that nothing not even a life-threatening tragedy can tear apart the bonds of family.
This film should have been a lot better than it was. The cast was solid including a very young Christina Ricci, Winona Ryder, and Bob Hoskins. The problem is it’s a very disjointed film with these awkward voice-overs about God and life that make this movie sound like the drivel from a teen’s diary. It’s definitely the weakest film in the collection, oddly placed between two of Cher’s better films. It will likely only appeal to the fans.
Tea With Mussolini (1999) Run Time: 117 minutes
Florence, Italy, on the brink of WWII: it was a time of social unrest and, of course… afternoon tea. Join Cher and an incredible cast of leading ladies as they host this “radiant, beautiful film” (Gene Shalit, “Today Show”) that is “worth savoring” (Mademoiselle). Pre-war Florence is the place to be for any proper British woman who relishes culture and the arts. These ladies have everything they could ever want or need including a promise from dictator Mussolini himself that not even the imminent world war will impose upon their lifestyle. But when it appears that his word is not kept, and these expatriates who chose to stay in Italy instead of seeking refuge in their own country are in trouble, it takes a young outcast boy and a brazen American woman (Cher) to keep them in the high life and out of harm’s way.
I have to admit that this is really a “chick flick” for the most part. I couldn’t really get into the overly sentimental story and portrayals. However, as a period piece it really is quite beautiful and authentic-looking. It’s probably Cher’s most lavish film, and the setting appears to do the actress justice. There’s a ton of detail here in the lavish locations that allowed me to find something I really could enjoy while not being able to pull myself into the story itself. It’s supposed to be true, but there is so much romanticizing here that I doubt much of it is really very accurate at all.
Each film is presented in its original aspect ratio with a couple of the films including a full-frame version as a DVD flipper disc. You already know what I think of those discs. I’d rather just have the widescreen versions. I can’t imagine anyone prefers full-frame movies any more now that you have wide televisions. The images are all fine for archive versions of the films, but I’ll tell you that none of these films truly stands out. There are compression issues as well as even print damage evident on some transfers. This collection delivers the films pretty much to have rather than as anything special about each film.
The Dolby Digital sound presentations are all pretty much bare bones here. Dialog is fine, but none of these films really stands out with the audio. There is a wonderful score on Moonstruck, and it is likely the highlight of the collection.
Any features that came with the original DVD’s are ported here.
Cher has had an up-and-down career in the movies. After almost a decade absence from the silver screen, she has made a bit of a comeback of late. She’s involved in at least three film projects soon to be released. It’s hard to say if this is a resurgence that will last, but it is more likely than not the reason for this collection and sudden interest in her acting career. So, if you’ve been wanting to check out some of Cher’s work, this is as good a collection as any. You might as well start now. What are you waiting for? “Well, don’t wait until she’s dead.”