Rates: * * * 1/2
Why Did I Watch It? The ‘Blank Check‘ podcast are doing Nora Ephron and I’ve not seen this one.
Dotty is a single mother with two young girls, who works a make up counter at a Queens department store. She also has a dream: she wants to be a stand up comic. When her aunt dies and leaves her some money, she decides to turn this daydream into a reality; an all-in bet that will scramble her family’s cozy domestic situation.
Nora Ephron’s directorial debut is your classic first movie; it contains all of the elements that would become her trademarks, only in rougher, less developed form. So: the film is brimming with snappy lines and zingers, there are wonderfully well drawn female characters, there’s a caustic look at the inside of showbiz, and there is a very cute romance with an atypical leading man.
And, far out: the film has Marge Simpson in a leading role.
I have always been a huge fan of Julie Kavner, and here is the one movie where she gets the spotlight. Her performance as Dotty is winning, and nicely captures the impossible task before a lot of modern women, required to be all things to all people. Samantha Mathis and Gaby Hoffman are great as her kids, and have an excellent sisterly chemistry; they nit pick each other constantly, but always have each others back.
The film also has fun with its supporting roles. As Dotty finds success and starts moving up the comedy food chain, she ropes in a roster of other comedians to help with child minding duties; a likable bunch of misfits who get the kids to help them work on their acts. The standout of these is Tim Blake Nelson, in his first film, who is hysterical in a couple of scenes as a comic who fancies himself more of a philosopher/performance artist. And the late Carrie Fisher is a hoot as Kavner’s agent (esssentially reprising her ‘When Harry Met Sally’ role).
The film’s more dramatic elements don’t land with much impact – these are all very nice people, who you can tell are going to be completely fine – but this is a warm and well observed comedy, that wears its heart on its sleeve.