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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before HARRY POTTER and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and after BELL, BOOK, AND
CANDLE, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK came out and charmed the pants off
moviegoers including me who, when we saw the film in theatres, loved
not only the fantasy element, but also the great interplay between the
Loosely based on the John Updike novel of the same name, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK concerns the shenanigans of three housewives, all close with each other, who live in a sleepy New England town and dream of having a man come to their lives. What they don't know is that their empathic desires materialize not a knight in shining armour, but... Jack Nicholson? Surely you jest. Cher, the first to meet him, loathes him -- her verbal assault is something that belongs in an Edward Albee play. But he matches her word for word and bests her. Susan Sarandon, playing completely clumsy and repressed, gets ravaged in a bombastic way that would make any woman go nuts. And Michelle Pfeiffer in her breakout role meets a tender man who wishes he could be a woman.
The key her is not the story: that the Devil has his own designs as Darryl van Horne and that he may have some eventual opposition from the town is predictable -- it's the way Nicholson embodies his role as van Horne. Pacino would do an over-the-top performance in THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE years later; Nicholson prefers to change his demeanor with regards to the women he gets involved in, and his Devil is almost an overgrown boy who just wants to have fun and enjoy life. Seeing him sharing screen time with such different actresses is worth the entire movie -- he oozes chemistry with all of them, he makes you believe he's that charming and sweet or passionate and maybe irrepressibly vulgar, full of his own cat-like sensuality. He's having fun, but making it known it's also not a one-note performance.
Performances are what save this movie from its overblown ending and 80s production values: to watch Veronica Cartwright stealing her scenes, perfectly comfortable in playing these types of roles, go from concerned to completely mad, is a hoot. That she also may be a latent witch... is possible. Cher tackles her role like a total feminist and brings a lot of her own blunt self; Susan Sarandon does wonders to what in her own words was an underwritten part, and Michelle Pfeiffer glows.
Great fun, fantasy at its purest form, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK makes you want to draw a 'D' in the sand and see what happens.
This is a genre blending film I found at Fry's Horror section for only $2.49 retail. It can be described as a supernatural Battle of the Sexes with horrific, comedic, and dramatic elements with a bizarre love story/ orgy at the center of it. The 3 "witches" (Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer) make a request for the perfect man who is delivered to them in the form of Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) aka the Devil. According to Daryl, when a man is encountered by a strong woman, his manhood goes limp. The woman is called a "witch" and set on fire. This is used to make women scared of men and scared of themselves. Daryl's attention allows the 3 women to embrace their sexuality, fertility, passion, and ambition. Eventually, they realize they no longer need men for anything, including Daryl. This culminates in the ultimate showdown with man vs. women. The SFX quality was good enough to win the BAFTA Award in 1987. The music by John Williams earned him an Oscar and Grammy nomination. Nicholson gives an incredibly over the top performance that was good enough to win both the NY & LA Critics Choice Awards. There is a lot of back story to this as well. Bill Murray was originally set to play Darryl and Cher and Sarandon switched roles once they walked onto the set. The studio execs hassled the director so much that Miller halted production. When they threatened to replace him with another director, Nicholson said he would walk away from the production. This ended the feuding. Favorite Quote: Almost all the dialogue. Cher asks Nicholson's character if he is married. To which he responds, " I don't believe in it. Good for the man, bad for the woman. She dies, she suffocates. Then the Husband complains that he is f*cking a dead woman and he is the one that killed her. Where is your Husband?" Cher replies, "Dead." DVD Extras: Full Cast & Crew Bios, a set design feature entitled " Conjuring Eastwick", a "Bewitching Look Back" at the history, Awards, Commentary, Interviews, and a Trailer (which indicates there are deleted scenes missing from the DVD. There should also be the numerous alternate endings they had shot). Bottom Line: Bewitching tale (pun intended) with something for everyone. Rating: 8.5/10
George Miller (Mad Max) creatively sets the stage for a story of three
witches and one Lucifer, who are in regular human form, in a small,
uptight New England town. Of course, for a tale like this one can try
to suspend disbelief, and it has to be when dealing with the
supernatural. Thankfully, Miller has great casting tastes- Cher,
Sarandon, and Pfieffer are wonderful in their roles, each with an
acute, potent sexuality that was at their peaks in the late 80's. And
then there's Mr shark grin himself, Jack Nicholson, who gives another
superb layer to the performance of the dark prince. There are other
actors who have portrayed the man downstairs- Al Pacino in Devil's
Advocate was the devil as lawyer, Billy Crystal was himself in the
Woody/Dante sequence in Deconstructing Harry, even Elizabeth Hurley in
But rarely have they had this much outright fun and charm with the role, enough to almost make me, a man in his 20s, charmed too. Maybe it's the eyebrows. Nicholson gives one of his best over-the-top performances as the "horny-little devil" Darryl, who comes into town during a storm and cooks up more than that for his avid female guests. Of course, he doesn't have control for long, when the girls find they have powers of their own. When the movie gets overly fantastic (which is a number of times) it gets a little hard to take, yet the acting is above par, and the special effects are a delight.
I have to admit that this is one of my favorite movies. The two best things about this movie are the things that movies should have-a great plot and a great cast. The plot is original, funny, dramatic, and there is even a bit of horror. The cast is perfect, each person brings something into the movie-especially Jack. The three women characters bring strength, sensitivity, and sexuality, but the movie does not focus on one trait-women have all three, but its funny that this movie has a character for each character trait-the devil needed to have three for himself, when one man would only need one woman-a good man, anyways. But, my favorite thing about this movie is the plot. There is not one boring part to this film, and that's why I have to say that it is one of the greatest.
John Updike probably panicked when he saw what screenwriter Michael
Cristofer and director George Miller did to his book.....but this movie is
all the BETTER for what they did! Careening wildly between scenes of
fantasy, full-bore horror and extreme gross-outs, this film is wildly
imaginative and terrifically entertaining. With Jack Nicholson as the
himself, things just don't get any better than that! Actually, the whole
cast is very well-chosen and all give great performances.
A great cult film...can't wait to see and hear those barfing scenes on DVD! Four stars!!!! ****
Three lonely New England women (Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer) dream of a man to satisfy their every need as they suffer from isolation with their husbands constantly away. That man---Jack Nicholson (always on a lucky streak it seems). Wicked little comedy with Jack going over the top and having great fun with the helter-skelter material. The women (Cher and Sarandon in particular) match his intensity and the star power makes up for the crazed screenplay and unsteady direction by George Miller. Overall I liked "The Witches of Eastwick". I am not quite sure why I did, but once again Nicholson proves that if there is just enough substance available that he can raise mediocre film-making techniques and share the spotlight with his fellow co-stars. 4 stars out of 5.
Jack Nicholson gives his funniest and one of the finest performances as
Mr. Darryl van Horn, the mysterious and wicked man who arrives to the
quiet and sleepy little town of Eastwick after three women, the Blonde
Souki (Pfeifer), the Redhead Jean (Sarandon), and the Brunette Alex
(Cher), best friends and witches dreamed him up as a man who can bring
some changes and excitement in their lonely lives.
Several great actors have played the Prince of Darkness during their careers but Nicholson was born to play a "friendly" devil that can seduce any woman with no exception by becoming exactly what she wants him to be. The scenes where Nicholson seduces Alex (Daryl Van Horne: Well, if that's how you feel about it, then that's how you feel about it. Is THAT how you feel about it?), Jean, and Souki are among the sexiest I've ever seen.
The movie has too many vomiting scenes for my liking, and the visuals are sometimes too screaming but Nicholson is delightful. I never thought that playing cello could lead to such flaming results and I used to play it. 7/10
In the old days anyone who strayed from the "truth" was labeled a
heretic or a witch. For centuries these people were portrayed as
morally bankrupt menaces to society whose "crimes" were punishable by
torture and then death. Books were written about them, rarely painting
them in a positive light. L. Frank Baum showed that there could be such
a thing as good witches when he wrote his 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.'
Hollywood too wanted to show both sides of the culture, sometimes
seriously and other times it comes out as fluff. The latter is not
necessarily a bad thing if done right, which is the case this film
based on the novel of the same name. It's not an historical account,
but it's not lacking in smarts either and is more than a light comedy.
Pros: Grade A cast, excellent performances by all. A really good story. Full of witty dialogue. Often very funny. Fabulous score. Beautifully photographed. Fast paced. Some really good effects that have held up. Director George Miller, creator of 'Mad Max,' does a really good job here and has some fun.
Cons: Somethings could have used more fleshing out. Seems like it's trying to be too many things at once and doesn't totally succeed in every area.
Final thoughts: Before 'The Craft' and 'Practical Magic' there was 'The Witches of Eastwick.' A highly entertaining and funny near two hours with a cast that you can tell really enjoyed what they were doing. Sure it's a bit messy in the script department, but there's enough goodies to keep the film afloat. Jack Nicholson's performance as the "horny little devil" is worth the price of admission alone, but there's a lot more.
My rating: 4/5
What fun Nicholson must have had with this! He really hams it up here. Very good supporting work by Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfieffer, and Veronica Cartwright. The plot is a little bit impenetrable. The "witches" are at first unaware of their power. I suppose I should read Updike's novel, but the one book of his I did read sucked. Anyway, I recommend the film, for it seems a bit different than normal Hollywood formula.
John Updike has written some wonderful novels. I can only think the
reason they haven't been adapted to film is that their strengths lie
more in their verbal felicities than in the kind of forceful plotting
and characterization Hollywood loves.
I don't think The Witches of Eastwick is any more suited to movie adaptation than, say, Couples or "S." It succeeds so well, with only a little tweaking, that it makes you wonder what we've been missing.
The chief glory of this movie is the beautifully detailed production. You can't precisely capture Updike's masterful use of the language on film, but the careful attention paid to the minutiae of the three witches' lives and the town they inhabit is the best approximation I've ever seen. You can't take your eyes off this movie. I've read a lot of praise for Jack Nicholson, in the role of the devil, but I think he might be the weakest element. The production itself is the real star here.
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