The other night, working late, I flipped on HBO and stumbled into this:
Yes, it’s Mannequin, a movie whose main titles flagrantly rip off the animated opuses of Savage Steve Holland, and which I watched so much on VHS as a kid that I think I broke the tape. Between Andrew McCarthy having to get handsy with a giant doll, Kim Cattrall, a young Lt. Provenza, Meschach “Designing Women” Taylor, James “Everything” Spader, Estelle “Sophia Petrillo” Getty, and That Actor I Always Mix Up With The One Who Played Ferris Bueller’s Dad, it seemed ripe for a trip to the Fug Nation Fromagerie. When you see TV’s Samantha Jones in her youth playing a half-human sex doll, you wonder if Sex and the City is the way Emmy’s life might have gone if she’d ditched the semi-pervy sculptor and learned that she doesn’t need to be dependent on a man for her freedom. Alas. And if I’ve just spoiled the movie for you… well, I haven’t, because you know how it ends even if you don’t know how it ends; Hollywood Montrose and the aforementioned Mr. Spader will make sticking around worth your time; and it includes the single worst piece of prop-making I have seen.
The best part about the main titles is that a) they show up after the movie itself has begun, grinding it to a halt just so we can have an animated romp involving a time-traveling elevator and animals who think they’re people; and b) they’re so freaking weird that they make you wonder what might’ve been if the movie HAD been an animated romp involving a time-traveling elevator and animals who think they’re people.
I just wanted to show you James Spader’s title card. He is a pig emperor of Rome while it’s burning around him. I hope someone dear to him has framed this and hung it in his study, or better, that he will one day again be nominated for an Emmy and skip the ceremony, so that they can put this up as a headshot when his name is read.
Okay, let’s dip into this movie and see what a 1987 rom-com has to teach us about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Emmy, who is terrible casting for someone who supposedly hails from Egypt, does not want to marry a camel-dung dealer. I just wish the show could’ve come up with a visual way to convey how shackled and stifled and silenced she feels, because this is too subtle for me. While she gets lectured by her mother, Emmy prays to the gods, and gets zapped out of her swaddling, which leads us to our first lesson of the film: If You Are Praying To The Gods For Delivery From Your Dung-y Destiny, Be More Specific. I am not entirely sure where Emmy went before this, but she does at some point end up living inside the plaster head of a painted lady whose name really should have been Razzmatazz:
Creepily, Emmy later implies that she could feel Andrew McCarthy putting her together, which makes me wonder if, like Voldemort, she was split up into all the different mannequin parts and just needed Andrew McCarthy to find all the right horcruxes so she could regain her human form.
Really, she could count herself lucky that his tender artist’s soul is so attuned to mannequin bottoms that he was able to find her the right one, despite almost accidentally affixing her to one that was male. ‘Man’nequin is a very different movie.
Andrew’s name is Jonathan Switcher, which could only have been more apt if he’d been called Manny Quinn. See, Jonathan switches jobs more often than he switches shoes. (This is actually true — he wears those bowling shoes in nearly every scene.) And after he’s fired from the mannequin shop — not for grievously inappropriate caressing but just for being slow — he manages to get sacked from making balloon animals, making pizza, and clipping hedges, all because he is a misunderstood artist and nobody loves beautiful things anymore. Look, son, that’s a nice thought, but I want my pizza to be delicious, not gorgeous.
He also has a girlfriend, Roxie, who was the woman on Sex and the City who got Carrie sucked into accidental prostitution. It makes no sense that they’re together. Jonathan drives a motorcycle; Roxie is so ashamed of this, despite the fact that everyone in the ’80s except the Wakefield twins liked motorcycles, that she tries to hide when he picks her up at work. Roxie likes boxy business separates and buns and stretch limousines and sex without eye contact, and Jonathan enjoys dreaming and deep glances and women who are made of synthetic materials. So I guess that’s Lesson #2: If You’re Going To Date Someone With Whom You Have Nothing In Common, At Least Make Sure She’s Receptive Of Unconventional Threesome Partners. The subsection of that lesson is that I should stop using the # sign to denote “number,” because some young whippersnapper is going to read that as, “Lesson hashtag two,” and wonder what this has to do with Twitter.
Speaking of: When Roxie dumps Jonathan for not being able to hold down a job (Lesson No. 3: If You Have A Movie Villain, Don’t Make Us Side With Her When She Dumps A Grown Man For Being Completely Dumb About How The World Works), it starts to rain; as Jonathan sits sadly at a stoplight wondering why there are so many songs about rainbows, he looks up and finds his connection.
Isn’t she pretty in pink?
The next day, Jonathan switches — SEE WHAT I DID THERE — into stalker mode, going back to the mighty Prince & Company store to try and fondle his inanimate passion. There, he meets Estelle Getty.
She is the woman who inherited the store and runs it, and when I saw this movie and realized it was being made at the same time as The Golden Girls, and that — gasp — she was YOUNGER than Sophia Petrillo and in fact THE SAME AGE as the other girls and maybe even younger, and WHAT IS THIS MAGIC WE CALL TELEVISION, it blew my face off. Also, I love that she has a pince-nez, which is exactly the way I want to roll when I’m her age, or whenever I get glasses, because of all the awesome gesturing you can do with them.
Meeting her is so exciting that fire starts shooting out of Jonathan’s switcher.
Actually, because of Reasons, he tries to save her from a swinging sign and ends up riding it like a seesaw while it electrocutes his sperm. She is so impressed — she doesn’t know yet that he won’t need them, because mannequins don’t have manniwombs — that she gives him a job as a stock boy. Lesson No. 4: When Life Hands You Lemons, Zap Your Junk.
And now, before the doll porn, the real-estate porn:
Prince & Company is actually the old Wanamaker’s (now Macy’s) in Philadelphia, and that is the world’s largest pipe organ, which was installed to fill the store with music and then expanded over the years to make sure it actually did so. There is all kinds of information on the store on its Wikipedia page, but suffice to say that if I had lived in Philadelphia at the time of Mannequin, I would not have shopped anywhere else, or gone anywhere else, and also might have started dating a mannequin if it meant getting to walk around this place. However, the store is going broke, because everyone is shopping at Illustra, which is the idiotic rival for which Roxie works.
Let us compare them:
Next to Prince & Company, Illustra is like tinsel dysentery. I am deeply depressed just looking at it. But this sight cheers me up every time:
James Spader plays basically the exact opposite of his Pretty In Pink character, and employs all the subtlety we’ve come to expect from him as an actor (if you’ve seen any promos for The Blacklist, you know what I mean). His character is a vain, prissy, ass-kissing, backstabbing, self-serving twit, and I really enjoy imagining what it was like for him and Andrew McCarthy when the director yelled “CUT” and they had to make small talk about the last time they worked together, when Spader had flowing locks and leisure suits and sex eyes and McCarthy was basically a tree with lips, and then had to promise each other that they would NEVER speak of this movie to each other again. Lesson No. 5: If You Are Ever Going To Be In The Room With James Spader, Make Yourself A Badge With This Picture and Wear It Over Your Heart But Never Acknowledge Its Presence And See How He Reacts.
As you can guess, James doesn’t like that Estelle Getty has hired a boy off the street who has no references and no qualifications besides “can screw mannequins together,” which he doesn’t know means something entirely different to Jonathan than to most people.
Over at Illustra, the subtlety continues, with a flailing cartoon of a foreign man named Armand. As Roxie tries to work, Armand is panting all over Roxie’s neck and thrusting his groin at her and feeling her up and constantly heaving that he’d like to have sex all over her. This is treated as the height of hilarity, and not the repulsive sexual harassment it is. The ’80s were a dumb, dumb time. Let’s focus instead on all the terrible things on Roxie’s wall. I don’t even know what that thing is on the top left — why is that eye so angry? Maybe it has seen the movie.
And now it’s time for Lt. Provenza.
He is the security guard, with the bulldog named Rambo, who believes himself to be a man of military dignity and skill and precision, but actually has the intellect of a pea that’s been enclosed in Tupperware and then shaken rather violently by a curious toddler. He will not stand for baloney, nor possibly for bologna.
Meanwhile, Jonathan’s heyyyyydar has led him straight to Emmy’s window, where he proceeds to caress her and wax poetic about how REAL she seems to him, even as he gazes at her utterly plastic face.
It’s ONLY not creepy because we know it’s Kim Cattrall. But HE doesn’t know it’s Kim Cattrall, so HOW does he not see that this is EXTREMELY ICKY? Shouldn’t he be getting counseling for the fact that all he wants to do is stroke the face of a plastic woman? Perhaps he should call Spencer Pratt about that.
Before he can, though, he gets caught, because a) he’s in a window, and b) people work at this magical place called a “store.” One of them is the most nuanced and delicate portrayal of a homosexual man ever committed to film.
His name is Hollywood Montrose, and he dresses like he just skipped off the set of a children’s television program on which he plays an adult five-year old named Art Brush who is friends with Music Jones and Books Shields and Math Johnson and they team up to use their special skills to solve problems like how to share crayons, or why mommy cries.
Hollywood is flamboyant, but also incredibly friendly and supportive and welcoming, and not at all wigged out by some doll fetishist who’s lurking in his place of work. And as a reward for that, he gets this:
It’s hard to tell from this shot, but Jonathan gives an epic terrified eye roll, because there is nothing more frightening than an incredibly friendly gay person who wants nothing more than to talk to you and make jokes and ensure that everyone is happy. What an ordeal! How does poor Jonathan cope? This is obviously Lesson No. 6: If You Encounter A Gay Man In The Wild, Do Not Make Any Sudden Movements, Nor Engage The Man, Lest You Be Buried In A Fatal Avalanche of Pleasantness.
And Lesson No. 7: Gay Men Will Also Ask You If Their Thighs Are Too Fat, Because They’re JUST Like Women, See, And Don’t Women Always Freak Out About Whether Their Thighs Are Too Fat?
And Lesson No. 8: Gay People Are Just F’ing Terrifying With How Much They Talk And Have Feelings And Stuff, Like, Can’t They Just Go Away And Leave Us Perfectly Normal Straight People Alone With The Mannequins We Want To Molest? God.
I guess we can’t help the era in which the movie was made, but still — I hope it embarrasses the writer and director and actors, in retrospect, to see how badly they tried to make this character a court jester even when Hollywood is actually the most top-notch human being of all of them. We see a woman casually calling him a “fairy,” as a laugh line, which is terrible. I don’t blame Meschach Taylor, because while carrying out the job he was hired to do, he cared enough to find a way to give Hollywood a genuine, pulsing dignity. He may cry loud, but he walks tall. He walks proud. He is at home in himself. He’s cheerfully uninterested in your approval. Which is good because these people are all too dumb for him.
Next up is the part where Jonathan gets really, really lucky, because he dodges a lot of therapy bills and probably years of trying to explain to other girlfriends why he wants to make plaster molds of them:
As soon as the terrifyingly nice gay man leaves, Emmy comes alive, joyfully clasping herself to Jonathan and panting about his wonderful hands that pieced her together. He gives her the same look he gave Hollywood, as if gay men and mannequins that turn to flesh are on exactly the same level of cosmic strangeness, and then chases after her.
Roxie, who had apparently agreed to a make-up date with him, passed out on her couch while waiting. Seriously, she’s wearing a fancy gold wrap on a date with a guy she dumped for having no money, no ambition, and no car? Lesson No. 9: Please Be More Selective About When You Deploy A Gold Lame Wrap.
Somewhere during their frenzied first night together, Emmy and Jonathan do very little getting to know each other, and a lot of building a window with mechanized tennis rackets and a ball that goes back and forth across the window, and a decal custom-made for the bottom right corner of the window that gives the display a name. I’m unclear why no small talk happened during the construction of this feat of electrical engineering, and where they got the expertise, considering Jonathan is a pizza-boy balloon-animal-maker frustrated sculptor who most likely couldn’t find the business end of an extension cord if it were disguised as a mannequin breast.
Nobody knew they were doing this. Here is my question: What did Hollywood think was going to happen with this window? Was nobody going to do anything to it? Did Hollywood think it was already done? I think Jonathan and Emmy just pulled a big douche move on him.
Speaking of: Armand swings by to offer Roxie a ride (excuse me: He actually says, “Can I ride you?” because jokes about banging her are hilarious), just as Jonathan comes up to apologize. Roxie sneers at him and hauls her incredibly unflattering suit into Armand’s convertible. Seriously, she is all about erasing her contours. She looks like a lawyer clown.
This is Jonathan’s loft. He can’t hold down a job, but he has a grand piano?
This is B.J. Wert.
I know this because I’ve seen this movie a hundred times, and also, it says so right there on his nameplate. He’s the head of Illustra, and he is enraged that Prince & Company — the dying rival he wanted to buy out — is getting so much attention because of its new tennis window. Let’s revisit the evidence to see why that might be.
If you had to choose between a nice, lively window and one with a faceless, drab mannequin standing under a neon sign and in front of a curtain that looks like the by-product of a showgirl giant’s paper shredder, which would you pick?
Jonathan, of course, is busted for Shenanigans, which include drawing attention to the store, and causing people to want to shop there. I can see why this might infuriate the board. Hollywood is there to support him in a set of glasses that looks like it doubles as a comb. He is resplendent. They should have cloned him and made a band. It’s a measure of what a wonderful person Hollywood is that, instead of wondering why Jonathan stepped all over his job, he’s there to champion Jonathan’s efforts and make sure he doesn’t get fired. And it’s a measure of how much other things and people are terrible that Jonathan acts like Hollywood is a rash he can’t cure.
Then Hollywood threatens to go to extreme measures and makes like he will rip off his clothes…
I’m kidding. That’s just what Jonathan THINKS Hollywood looks like on the inside.
Really, Hollywood tears away the color to reveal a sensible suit underneath it all. I always loved that moment. Look at the extremes Hollywood is willing to go to, just to save the job of a guy who is basically about to steal his. Jonathan, though, still has a very skeptical eyeball. Granted, some of this is because Hollywood is mapping out detailed, extravagant protests in his favor and Jonathan doesn’t want to make a fuss. But still. You have no friends, Jonathan. Do not look a gift big gay loose cannon in the mouth.
Also, despite James Spader calling him a sociopath, the board decides to hire Jonathan to do more windows. James Spader pretends he is the one who saved Jonathan’s ass, blah blah blah LIES. I forgot to screengrab this — or accidentally deleted it — because I am a bad person.
That night, Jonathan can’t revive Emmy until he closes the curtain, at which point nobody else can see her so she comes alive. This is important because they totally ignore that logic, and indeed all logic, later. So the two of them talk while the Ken doll next to her leans in and tries to break off a piece of this action, because he can count to three and he knows he’s stumbled on a bucket-list situation.
Emmy also starts dropping all these tidbits about how she knew Christopher Columbus, and Michalangelo, but she never says in exactly what form she existed. Since I’m pretty sure Rome and the Santa Maria were not well-stocked with mannequins, does this mean she was human then? Or stuck in another inanimate object? Was she David? Was she a lusty compass or tri-corner hat? What are the rules? Lesson No. 10: The Biggest Rule of Ancient Egyptian Gods’ Life-Zapping Club Is, Don’t Talk About Ancient Egyptian Gods’ Life-Zapping Club Rules.
Instead, Emmy decides it’s time for a montage. In the worst-acted moment in a movie oozing with them, she accidentally sits on a sound board, then leaps up after the barest half-beat comes out of the speakers and breathes, “Where do they hide the musicians?!?” You’re going to tell me a woman who’s lived in every other time period doesn’t understand sound systems? Did she never pause for a break in an era that had gramophones? Also, Kim Cattrall didn’t leave enough time between “OMG what is that noise” and “OMG it’s music OMG who is playing it OMG they must be hiding musicians somewhere OMG this is magic OMG I should say this out loud.”
She’s also wearing cocktail pajamas and starts snapping her fingers and massaging her hair like she’s in an Herbal Essences ad. And that’s when the montage begins.
Jonathan takes a turn playing a smoking gangster. What the hell kind of department store is this that sells giant imitation guns? And where the hell is this staircase? I would love to know if that thing is really in Wanamaker’s/Macy’s, because you know where it looks like it belongs?
In fact, so does Emmy:
Then they change clothes and scrub off her face and decide to do some tangoing:
And of course, a Phantom moment with the pipe organ:
While Emmy dances on part of it in a satin coat and panties.
It should be noted that so far none of this has awakened Lt. Provenza’s suspicions.
Next up: An ’80s music video parody in the freight elevator…
… some gratuitous underwear shots as they pretend to be a rich, detached codger and his bored trophy wife in furs…
… and a blouse the likes of which would later inspire the collected works of David Silver.
Hollywood, of course, stops by on his way out, prompting Emmy to turn back into a Mannequin while she’s crouched down and pointing. Nobody would construct a mannequin in that position and yet Hollywood doesn’t even blink. Lesson No. 11: Pay Attention, People. We also need to applaud that these one-sided glasses are the exact mirror opposite of the ones he wore earlier despite the fact that it’s the same day and he’s in the same outfit. Perhaps the left swoop is for the a.m., and we switch to right in the p.m.
Then they throw together a window despite the fact that a painted backdrop and a new window decal would presumably require some advance notice. Also, I would deeply enjoy seeing someone go biking in that outfit. Jessica McClintock needs to sponsor a Tour de France team.
Everyone is very excited about mannequins moving their legs. No one more so than Jonathan, obviously, but we’ll get to that later.
Roxie lets her hair down and lures Jonathan to a restaurant where he once worked — and got fired, for burning down the kitchen — so she can try to hire him at Illustra. Lesson No. 12: You Were Never That Important To Each Other If He Never Even Told You The Story Of The Time He Worked at A Fancy Philly Restaurant And Almost Burned It To The Ground. He also turns down the job with Illustra because he sees right through Roxie’s sudden pleasantness, and also, none of their mannequins will have the courtesy to turn into flesh and blood so that he doesn’t have to confront his lust issues.
So naturally, these two have themselves a kickin’ fake vacation in the cruise-ship section of the department store, which I’m pretty sure does not exist.
And Roxie is there to sneak in and photograph his mysterious work partner so that they can lure her away, and Armand is there to make thrusting motions and idiotic sexual suggestions. Lt. Provenza is there for broad comedy, because he sure as hell isn’t actually securing any perimeters. Although, since James Spader begged him to keep an eye on Jonathan, he has done a marvelous job keeping an eye on Jonathan:
So in the middle of a tickle-fight, Emmy turns back into a doll. Provenza finds this perverse, and the thing is, he’s a rube but he’s also totally right. We’re supposed to think he’s this hateful buffoon, but seriously, what would YOU do if your boss asked you to keep an eye on a suspicious employee, and then you found said employee rolling around the floor wrapped around a mannequin? You would report that sucker, because you are not privy to the knowledge that she’s beholden to a bunch of Egyptian overlords with a sick sense of humor. And yet he’s villified for this behavior, so apparently, Lesson No. 13: Always Assume Strange Behavior Can Be Explained Away By Someone Being Beholden To A Bunch of Egyptian Overlords With A Sick Sense of Humor, and further, Lesson No. 14: Always Blame Your Strange Behavior On Being Beholden To A Bunch of Egyptian Overlords With A Sick Sense of Humor.
Emmy manages to come alive while Provenza’s back is turned, and bonks him in the head. Everyone now please marvel at the wondrous sporting goods behind her. Strangely, shoes haven’t changed as much as I thought, or else, they’re coming back around to this. Justin Bieber would climax at the very sight of that wall.
Then later, the exertions of Provenza-gate behind them, Jonathan and Emmy start riding bikes through the store. WHERE PEOPLE ARE STILL WORKING. Poor Hollywood. He’s stuck arranging flowers and doing, I guess, all the other windows — surely there is more than one window at Prince & Company, and if not, Jonathan is an even bigger job-stealer — and nobody lets him in on the fun or even stops by to say hello. Lesson No. 15: Hollywood Always Deserves Better, Even If He Is Wearing An Ill-Advised Shirt That May Have Been Inspired By The Main Titles.
Emmy is busy hang-gliding, because she always did want to fly.
At least this gets us a look at this building’s ceiling. Seriously, what a great place to film. I hope it is also a great place to shop.
Is it just me, or has Emmy’s lipstick been touched up? Also, this is the last thing Provenza saw before she crashed into him and he passed out. Again. It has been a really busy night for everyone, and also, Mannequin Crash-Landing Reaction Shot might be my favorite thing in this entire movie. Lesson No. 16: Movies Should Have More Reaction Shots Of Inanimate Objects.
Can we also discuss that in addition to prop guns, Prince & Company sells aviator jumpsuits and caps? No wonder they’re going broke. You don’t have to sell EVERYTHING, Estelle Getty.
And so then Emmy changes into a high-necked blouse for some prim snuggling in a throne of teddy bears — and she’s right, it really would be the height of rude to bring your cleavage to a party attended by children’s toys (despite Jonathan’s obvious emotional conflict about wanting to feel her up). There’s a reason Toy Story Andy never brought girls into his room. You just can’t upset Rex like that. He has anxiety.
And THEN suddenly Jonathan is like, “Oh, crap, we forgot to do the window, and it’s almost dawn.” Emmy actually says, “We’ll never dress the mannequins in time.” This is where Jonathan gets his brainwave to do a commute-themed window where everyone is half-clothed and rushing to catch the bus/subway/whatever…
… and somehow they had time to ADD A WORKING STOPLIGHT AND BUILD FAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION THAT POPS OUT OF THE BUILDING? Lesson No. 17: The laws of space and time and engineering don’t apply if you are a plastic-fondling weirdo.
This, however, is amazing.
First, that photo looks ripped from a St. Elmo’s Fire promotional shoot. Second, someone took the time to fake a newspaper page with accurate headlines, yet couldn’t squeeze out a handful of sentences that were on-topic, as well, and instead threw in chunks of random nonsense. If you don’t want to squint at the lede, allow me: “The facts regarding the situation remain the same, state the anthorities. Details concerning the action have been given a preliminary investigation, but it is felt that only by a more detailed study will the true facts become known.” That reads like comment spam. This person a) is not good at props, b) was spending too much time making a subway train window, c) somehow didn’t foresee the day when people would screen-grab things and post the pictures on a magical network of space tubes, and d) didn’t own a VCR, apparently, because HI, PAUSE BUTTONS HAD BEEN INVENTED BY NOW, LAZYPANTS.
It goes on to be about governments and warring republics: “Arrangements for dealing with questions and disputes between the republics were further improved.” That doesn’t even make SENSE. If you’re going to put in words, can’t they be ACCURATE WORDS? Couldn’t they barf out an inept version of something that’s at least RELATED? Here are some terrible yet on-topic ledes that I just came up with in five seconds: “Struggling Philadelphia department store Prince & Company, days away from approving a sale of its assets to rival Illustra, has seen a boom in revenues thanks to innovative new window displays by local designer Jonathan Switcher.” Or, “A suspected local pervert has turned out to be really good at someone else’s job.”
So good, in fact, that he can snap his fingers and make tiny wooden yachts. Emmy is such a lucky girl. Maybe can make a tiny wooden St. Tropez to go with them.
Hollywood, meanwhile, is spending all his time wearing every fabric he possibly can all at once, and walking through the store trying to stop people from gossiping about Jonathan and the mannequin he always has under his arm. Because Lesson No. 18: Hollywood Is So Much Better Than Everyone Else In This Movie, It’s Insane, Because What Has Jonathan Ever Done For Him Except Risk Him Being Downsized. Which brings me to Lesson No. 19: Do Not Downsize Hollywood Montrose.
Over at Illustra, Armand still has no discernible job except to sniff the air around other people.
Jonathan, meanwhile, put Emmy in a dress that looks like a laundry bleeding accident just so he could carry her to the ladies’ room and tell her that he’s been made Vice President of Plastic Genitals.
She responds by kissing him, which then leads to Andrew McCarthy having to mack on a dummy. I hope this was his Christmas card that year.
Hollywood walks in on them and, again, doesn’t seem to notice that Emmy is in yet another new position that is foreign to any but the dolls who come by mail-order. Perhaps he should try untinted lenses.
He ALSO doesn’t notice that suddenly her eyes are closed and she’s puckered up. (What, no frozen mannequin tongue?) Hollywood should notice these things. If we’re going by the movie’s own broad brush strokes, Hollywood would at LEAST be obsessed with why the mannequin has a strange new terrible haircut and an uglier dye job. He wouldn’t tolerate it.
Instead, Hollywood begs Jonathan to teach him the art of making giant dioramas, and there’s so much wailing and sniveling that the people eavesdropping outside the door are flummoxed, and one lady tells a curious passerby that it’s either “our new vice president, the fairy, or the DUMMY.” Lesson No. 20: That Actress Has To Live With Having Said That Line For The Rest Of Her Life. And Lesson No. 21: Boy Howdy, Gay People And Probably Also Women Sure Do Wail A Lot, Huh? I Mean, Whoa, Easy There, Cry Pennington, AM I RIGHT.
So Jonathan promises to teach him. Because why would you do ANYTHING for a person as nice as Hollywood has been, unless he weeps you into guilty compliance? And there is a half-hearted moment of them doing the window, which ends up looking like this:
I wonder if Emmy got some perverse thrill out of making Jonathan put really hideous outfits on her rival mannequins. That one in the black and white stripes looks INSANE, like she is at the graduation ceremony for her bachelor’s degree in prison food from the Cordon Blech Institute.
Jonathan credits Emmy with the fact that he’s so adept at manhandling plastic people. “You’re in here,” he tells her, tapping his collarbone romantically, presumably offering to wear her essence like a body shot. Emmy is THIS happy about it:
Then they steal a bunch of clothes and jewels from his employer, and he straps her on his bike and they go on a date.
By which I mean, he drives her around Philadelphia and they run into people they know, like right here, when Roxie pulls up and Jonathan blithely introduces her to Emmy and acts like ROXIE is the fool when in fact this is the stuff of which mandatory psych holds are made. Lesson No. 22: If Your Ex Starts Groping And Riding Around Town With A Mannequin, And It Strikes You As Really Creepy And Strange, You Are The One With The Problem.
Naturally, James Spader and Lt. Provenza are on the case, because B.J. Wert has asked them to filch the mannequin. So they’re following Emmy and Jonathan around in a car, and what ensues is an epic chase that seems to violate all the loose rules that have been set up — namely, that only Jonathan can see her move. Remember when she couldn’t come alive until he closed the window curtain? Well, apparently, she has no problem becoming human for a second or three while riding around the city in full view of other drivers and their pursuers and any number of people who could happen to be looking out their own windows.
And of course, Provenza and Spader get offended, instead of thinking, “That’s weird, nobody makes mannequins that are flipping the bird at people, and in fact, the last time I saw this mannequin, she wasn’t doing that, and indeed TWO SECONDS AGO she wasn’t doing that, and actually every single time I’ve seen her she’s been in a wildly different position with unusually bent limbs.” Not that you would ever assume, “Well, that mannequin must be infused with the spirit of a cosmic drifter,” but you would at least tie up the bastard and quiz him. Lesson No. 23: Carry Twine.
The chase does not go well for these two. Provenza tries to jump the car through an alley and it gets stuck midair between two buildings. Spader is horrified. I can’t tell if he’s in character, or if he thinks the cameras are off and he’s reviewing his life choices.
Meanwhile, Roxie agreed to sleep with Armand because she was so squicked out by her ex-boyfriend picking a fake lady over her real bits. And Armand couldn’t get his Illustra to function, so Roxie leaves. Talk about a guy who should have fired his agent. Also, seriously, his apartment is straight out of The Sims, before The Sims even existed. He is a psychic stereotypical moron.
And then Jonathan takes Emmy to this super romantic pile of lumber alleging to be a pier of some kind, and they make out while the entire city could possibly see them. Maybe the Egyptian gods are just sort of pervy and didn’t freeze her because they wanted to see where this went.
It went to the sporting goods section. For the second time. These two REALLY have a jones for balls. Also, Lesson No. 24: Do Not Consider Sex In A Hammock Unless You Are Unnaturally Bendy, Because That Looks Potentially VERY UNCOMFORTABLE.
Afterward, they decide to spread their coital sweat all over a massive pile of furs, like a couple of young, horny PETA-inspired saboteurs. Emmy tells Jonathan the window is breathtaking, which is a lie, so he should be concerned if she also told him that he’s an interesting person, or that the sex was like this:
In fact, Emmy is getting a weird look on her face, like maybe she’s realizing this guy is kind of an aimless dope. Except I think we’re actually supposed to think she is worrying that this isn’t sustainable, and/or that she’ll get zapped to another time and place and have her heart broken. Or that the sex really was terrible, or she’s allergic to fur. We have to infer all this, though. This movie, which wants to paint its characters in such broad strokes that it actually uses a roller, suddenly decided to be subtle. Lesson No. 25: Movie, Know Thyself.
James Spader and Lt. Provenza extracted themselves from vehicular peril and are now just taking every mannequin they can find out of the Prince & Company windows, which leads to James nuzzling his face into this woman’s rump meridian. This is absurd because Provenza has encountered this mannequin about a hundred times and they BOTH just spend an entire chase scene staring at the back of her head, and yet they’re STILL taking raven-haired dummies and ones with straight blunt bobs… also, in what transport do they think they can pack two dozen mannequins? Is the Millennium Falcon parked outside? Lesson No. 26: Come On.
So Emmy pops herself into a conveniently semi-Egyptian-themed window and freezes up, and gets dummynapped by Spaderenza (I apologize if the dummy community is upset that I’m using that word to describe them and their life’s work, but I don’t know another alternative, at least until a new movement arrives that suggests we should be swapping in “womannequin” and “personnequin” because obviously “mannequin” is a deeply patriarchal stab wound to the gut). I have questions. Why is there a random semi-Egyptian-themed window here? Who was in charge of this? Doesn’t Jonathan handle all the windows? Why do they act like there is only one? Why is there a girl in totally modern clothing slumped exhaustedly against the wall like she’s spent all day doing the accounting for a dude who excavated the tomb?
Wait, I may have just answered that one myself. But if Hollywood Montrose is coming up with ideas like “exhausted women who’ve been exploring the pyramids and doing math,” then I can see why nobody was shopping at this store for such a long time. Lesson No. 27: When You’re Making A Movie, It’s Fine To Not Care About Things Like Details, Because Whatever, It’s A Movie. Incidentally, that is also a lesson you can learn from Center Stage’s director’s commentary, where the guy actually SAYS, of the final performance’s impossible costume and set changes, “Eh, it’s a film.”
Jonathan wakes up naked and alone on his fur bed, surrounded by Prince & Company shoppers who applaud him enthusiastically. Hollywood interrupts the fracas, and gives me this shot, which delights me because something about that man in the glasses reminds me of a younger, shorter version of my father in law, and I’ve decided to pretend that he took “business trips” to Philly that actually involved being an extra in Mannequin, without telling his family about his secret passion. Anyhoo, Hollywood informs Jonathan that all the womannequins in the store are gone, including his favorite. Whom Hollywood can identify because he has eyes, and has suddenly remembered how to use them.
Hollywood hips in his pink car — please note the license plate — and hightails it to Illustra with Jonathan, and he would be deeply angry if he knew that a woman in a hot-pink turtleneck was stealing all the focus in this shot.
Because you need to know that Hollywood’s car has a a wardrobe. Who Wore Cursive Better: Illustra, or Hollywood’s car? Seriously, that department store gets no natural light at all and has EIGHT THOUSAND WINDOWS with nothing in them but tinsel. This is what I keep expecting Forever 21 to morph into.
Jonathan confronts everyone about Emmy, and Roxie is so grossed out that he’s more passionate about a personnequin than he was about her, that she scurries off to destroy Emmy. After, of course, announcing that to be her plan. Can’t people who do evil just keep it to themselves? Not that I am rooting for a lot of private evil in the world, but seriously, if you’re Roxie, and you’re angry and skeeved out, why would you draw attention to your deeds? Lesson No. 28: If You Believe Your Ex To Be The Deepest Sort Of Wackjob, Skulk Out Of There In Silence To Shred His Girlfriendequin, Because It Will Work Better If He Is Not Chasing You.
Spoiler: He chases her. And everyone else chases him.
James Spader fastidiously smooths his hair as he runs. Lesson No. 29: James Spader Is Committed To His Art.
Lesson No. 30: Always Run On Floors, Not On Glass Display Cases.
Lesson No. 31: No Matter What Your Job Is, Always Know Where To Find The Industrial-Sized Trash Shredder.
Lesson No. 32: Always Know Where The Release Hole Is For Accumulated Trash And Then Don’t Stand Underneath It, Or Else Something Symbolic Will Happen To You.
Hollywood is shooting at the store cops and execs chasing after Jonathan (who is chasing after Roxie), and he’s fending them off with this stream while shouting things like, “Mine’s bigger than yours is!” Lesson No. 33: Never Run Afoul Of A Dangerously Friendly And Supportive Gay Person Holding A Fire Hose.
Lesson No. 34: If You Anticipate Rescuing Someone From The Blades Of A Shredder, Don’t Wear Bowling Shoes, Because Those Suckers Don’t Give You Any Grip And It’s Going To Take You Twice As Long.
Emmy, of course, turns human in the middle of the rescue, which promises to make this a much bloodier mistake if his sensitive artist hands let go.
Also, the little dude in the background here sat there and watched Jonathan for a long time before he ran over to hit the off button (which appears to have been in full view), because I guess when he thought Jonathan was struggling to save an inanimate object he just didn’t care. Lesson No. 35: Between This And Toy Story, Let’s Just Assume Inanimate Objects Have Feelings.
Emmy realizes she’s alive and also visible to others now, so she assumes the gods have granted her permission to stay with her One True Love, although exciting window displays are going to get much harder without a mysteriously pliable mannequin in his arsenal, and then the job might dry up and with it the money, and then he’ll have to go back to failing at other jobs and refusing to sell his grand piano to pay for dinner. So Emmy might want to slow things down a tad.
However, this guy decides he might score a flesh and blood ladyquin also, and indeed, unearths Roxie from the debris. He kisses her and she screams and shoves him away. But don’t worry — his degradation is not complete; at the end of the movie he shrugs and dives into the pile again to see what his luck might bring.
Hollywood has the perfect reaction to seeing Emmy alive.
And Estelle Getty has Spaderenza on tape, thanks to her new security system (she had fired Provenza for being a moron earlier in the movie, which I forgot about because OBVIOUSLY), and slaps everyone with all kinds of lawsuits. Jonathan sidles over to her and asks how MUCH she got on tape, and she winks, “I saw everything I needed to see.” Translation: His junk. Lesson No. 36: The Demise of VHS Technology Has Deprived Society Of Effective, Harmless Items To Wave Threateningly At Other People.
And so Emmy and Jonathan become the subject of their own window, and in many ways, the world’s first reality show. Everyone is there to see Hollywood marry them with whatever power is vested in him — presumably awesomeness is not enough of a qualification, and he couldn’t have been Internet certified, but maybe the Egyptian overlords decided to infuse him with a little something official — and Estelle Getty brings a date and wears a hat.
And while Hollywood looks like an Elvis impersonator with better eyewear, Emmy, the Kate Middleton of her time, wears a touching half-smile/half-grimace in what becomes the last shot of the movie — the freeze-frame over which the credits roll –leaving us with nothing else but to wonder how soon she regretted this decision. Which brings us to the final lessons of the day: Lesson No. 37: The Only Thing I Miss More Than End-Of-Show Freeze Frames Are When Movies Shot Little Extra Bits That Ran During The Credits To Show You How It All Worked Out, Like At The End of Legal Eagles; and Lesson No. 38: “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship is a freaking spectacular song; and Lesson No. 39: That Trash Compactor Guy Was Right — You Really Should Grope Mannequins Casually Just In Case They Turn Out To Be A Very Hot, Trapped Person Desperate For Human Contact.
And finally, Lesson No. 40: Don’t Shop At Illustra.
Fuggery: 10 out of 10. Even for ’80s movies, some of this stuff gave me the shivers. Roxie’s businesswear hurt my feelings. Also:
Separately, if I am ever blessed with a daughter, I probably have to name her Illustra. Sorry in advance. To everyone.
Fromage: 10 out of 10 for James Spader’s performance alone, which I didn’t capture too much because it shines the most when it unfolds in motion.
F*ckwittery: 10 out of 10 again, for all the aforementioned things I bleated about re: Hollywood, mannequin positions, and poorly invented logic. As a Fug National pointed out on Twitter, what happens if someone catches them having sex and she turns back into a mannequin? Does he… get stuck? Ponder THAT.
Overall: 10 out of 10. One of the finest cheesy movies ever that also defines “guilty pleasure,” because odds are, if you admit to watching this, one of two things will happen: You will get a horrified/confused look from someone, or you will get a conspiratorial one followed by a whispered, “I secretly love that movie too.”