A lonely Navy sailor falls in love with a hooker and becomes a surrogate father figure for her son during an extended liberty due to his service records being lost.A lonely Navy sailor falls in love with a hooker and becomes a surrogate father figure for her son during an extended liberty due to his service records being lost.A lonely Navy sailor falls in love with a hooker and becomes a surrogate father figure for her son during an extended liberty due to his service records being lost.
Jump forward to the late '80s and catch a CBS "48 Hours" episode about the lives of sailors on a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. It was a good, solid piece of expository work that showed the violent excitement and danger of a carrier's flight operations contrasted with the much, much more mundane doings below decks, in the galley, the engineering spaces, etc. Said one sailor, covered with grease and saturated by sweat, "You're never gonna see a movie titled "Top Engineer."
I've always held a deep, abiding respect for our Navy (I even considered joining at the start of the Reagan years), but the tedium of swabbing decks somewhere down there in the large intestine of a flattop just didn't grab me.
And I said no.
Which brings us to Cinderella Liberty, a not-really-a-chick-flick with James Caan as a career swabbie, a guy who joined because he needed a steady gig, and Marsha Mason as the non-Hollywood-traditional whore he befriends in Seattle. I say non-traditional because she is NOT Julia Roberts but a chemical-saturated and beaten-up-by-life hooker who is trying to figure out how to take care of her adolescent son, keep a roof over their heads, and not get too involved with Caan. This proves difficult for Caan because he--like me--finds Mason imperfectly lovely, sexy, and appealing.
CL is such a (and I hate to use this cliché, but I will) slice of life (under the waterline, that is) with Caan having no great ambition other than to maintain his rank and his dental integrity while helping Mason and her son, not to mention his friend Eli Wallach.
Caan is a essentially a skilled grease monkey--no deep thinking here-- and he turns the hooker cliché on its head. He's the one with the heart of gold, not Mason. As you watch, she becomes less and less appealing. Her self-destructive impulses overwhelm her prettiness. Bad decisions blot out a perky nose, coy overbite, and non-fashion-model curves.
To add an extra layer of quality to the story, there's Seattle herself, here more matronly and replenishment ship homely than in your travel brochure. The Emerald City is rendered by the locale choices to feel working class, not flight-deck glamorous.
In closing, I recommend Cinderella Liberty because it is an honest film with nice, believable people and a story that shows rust streaks and all.
It's a fine entertainment.
- Feb 2, 2007