Vintage Cable Box: “Best Friends”

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“Father Time has a way of just beating the shit out of us.”

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“Best Friends”, 1982 (Goldie Hawn), Warner Bros.

I can’t watch a movie about relationships without thinking of mine. As Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn play two screenwriters involved romantically with each other, they are thoughtful people. They share their affections, their hang-ups, their curiosities and fascinations, so they are completely in-tune with each other. They exhibit the same sense of humor, and capacity for pathos. Reading countless theories about intimate relationships in sociology books, when people live with each other, to a degree they begin to take on the qualities or properties of the people they love.

They mess around with the idea of getting married. Goldie doesn’t think they need to be married, but Burt craves the legitimacy. He wants to be known as a married man. He wants that respect. With advice from her friend, played by Valerie Curtin (who wrote “Best Friends” with her husband at the time, Barry Levinson), Goldie takes the plunge. She hops into a shower with Burt and accepts his proposal. In my opinion, that’s the best way to accept a proposal. Now that I watch the movie in adulthood, I wonder if Goldie’s character just doesn’t want to grow up, and she considers marriage to be the first nail in her childhood coffin. One similarity that exists between this movie and a movie like “Deathtrap” is that writers tend to eat, sleep, and breathe the characters they create, and since Goldie and Burt are collaborating on a screenplay, they seem to be playing versions of the characters they are writing.

They decide to have a quickie wedding, officiated by Richard Libertini (who can’t pronounce the word endow – it keeps coming out as en-doe). They take a cross-country trip back east to share the good news with their parents. The scenes aboard the train are a great promotional advertisement for airplane travel. Goldie’s parents are crazy old-fashioned, make them sleep in separate beds and separate rooms, and make Burt grits because they assume since he’s from Virginia, he’ll enjoy the southern-specialty cuisine. My mother was born in Nashville, and she always hated grits. I’m not partial to them either.

BEST FRIENDS, Burt Reynolds, Goldie Hawn, 1982
Look at those pretty dogs!

Burt’s parents are more progressive. They automatically assume Burt and Goldie sleep together. Burt’s dad is a strange character. He creeps out Goldie with his hunting stories. There’s a great shot where we are looking at Burt and his father from Goldie’s perspective eating breakfast (no grits!) and their actions are completely synchronized. These are great characters, loaded with eccentricities, and you get the feeling you’ve watched Curtin and Levinson and their interactions in order to behave like an actual couple.

When I saw “Best Friends” a while back, I enjoyed the film’s bittersweet humor. Looking at it now, it became sly and suggestive, hinting more at the rock-solid core of drama. “Best Friends” is more drama than comedy, or perhaps a drama with a sense of humor. At the time of release, Goldie Hawn was a dependable comedienne headlining her own productions like “Private Benjamin”, “Wildcats”, and “Protocol”. Burt Reynolds (truly an underrated acting talent) headlined his own action movies, like “Sharky’s Machine” and “Stick”, and taking brief breaks to star in unusual existential comedies like “The End” and “Paternity”.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

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