Palatable: Eyewitness

Eyewitness (1981)
Directed by Peter Yates
Written by Steve Tesich
Produced by Peter Yates, Kenneth Utt
Starring William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer, James Woods, Steven Hill, Morgan Freeman, Pamela Reed, Kenneth McMillan, Irene Worth, Albert Paulsen, Keone Young, Chao Li Chi, Alice Drummond
Burdened by supernumerary character development, Yates’s and Tesich’s second coaction after Breaking Away doesn’t quite compass its potential as a murder mystery or a romance. A janitor (Hurt) employed at a palatial office building reports the murder of a businessman (Chi) who’d leased an office therein to two cynical detectives (Hill, Freeman), who correctly suspect his maniacal buddy (Woods) of means, motive and opportunity. Their case is complicated by the unsophisticated custodian’s incomplete disclosure — recounted first to them, then to a fetching news reporter and chamber pianist (Weaver), who’s enticed by the prospect of breaking a story that’s closer to home than she imagined. Tesich’s story is timely and absorbing, but his script’s plagued by his zeal to humanize nearly every single character with at least one deepy personal, expository monologue or discourse — all of which are delivered so well by Yates’s eximious ensemble that one almost doesn’t notice this superfluous sentiment. Singly fresh from Altered States and Alien, Hurt and Weaver effortlessly inhabit proper parts with charm and conviction, but their shortage of chemistry does nothing to make their amorous developments seem any more probable. Woods hyperactively betokens some of his best work to come as the volatile Vietnam vet who drives the plot. Most notable for its population of established and ascending stars, this one almost hits its mark, and almost satisfies.

Palatable: Working Girl

Working Girl (1988)
Directed by Mike Nichols
Written by Kevin Wade
Produced by Douglas Wick, Laurence Mark, Robert Greenhut
Starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Philip Bosco, Oliver Platt
Neither commonality of gender nor class guarantee loyalty, a lesson learned hard by a working-class secretary (Griffith) weary of sexual harassment and her career’s stagnation under a sleazy stockbroker (Platt); after detonating her post with a prank at his expense, she’s reassigned subordinate to an executive virago (Weaver) of her firm’s mergers and acquisitions department. Ever-perceptive, the ambitious underling’s urged to exploit advantage from simultaneous misfortunes after discovering that her sleazy boyfriend’s (Baldwin) cheating on her, and her new supervisor has pilfered a tip of tremendous potential concerning a media acquisition that she proffered. At first opportunity to utilize her lead, she becharms one of her chief’s voracious contacts (Ford), whose interest in her isn’t limited to their view of a merger. If Nichols’ biggest ’80s hit hasn’t the insight of his early output, it’s still as slickly crafted as anything under his direction, skirting farce but indulging the chemistry of a star cast who he employs with some judicious reserve: Weaver’s almost absent throughout the flick’s second act. George DeTitta Jr.’s interiors starkly contrast Manhattan’s opulence with the chintzy squalor of those set in the protagonist’s provenance of Staten Island, impersonated in the screaming raiment, garish maquillage and hyper-volumized hair of her best friend (Cusack). Only the music is regrettable: Carly Simon’s schmaltzy, celebrated Let the River Run excruciates any discerning audience’s ears during the opening and end credits, and insufferably ill-arranged variations of the track composed by Rob Mounsey during which the equine balladeer obnoxiously hums and wails often diverts attention from onscreen activity with a kitschy pomposity entirely incongruous from Nichols’ breezy style. Otherwise, it’s terrifically enjoyable; if Lifetime routinely screened pictures of this quality, they could triple their viewership of sane humans overnight.