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The Woman in Red


I'm a huge Gene Wilder fan. From "Young Frankenstein" and "Blazing Saddles" to "The Producers" and "Silver Streak", the man was a comedy genius.

Curiously, I never really cared much for the films that he directed though and 1984's THE WOMAN IN RED is the perfect example of why.

It's a paper-thin concept, with Wilder writing the adaption of a French comedy farce.

Businessman Teddy Pierce sees a mysterious, beautiful woman walking into his office one day and he's hypnotized.

Kelly Lebrock plays Charlotte, a model hired for an ad campaign in Teddy's office. She's stunning and is good in the role, but the part is strangely written.

Teddy is married to Didi (Judith Ivey) who appears to be a great wife and mother to Teddy's kids.

But like Dudley Moore in the far superior "10"by Blake Edwards, Teddy is hypnotized, falling all over himself to meet and set up a date with Charlotte.

Gilda Radner (Wilder's fiance at the time) steals the movie as a dour secretary named Ms. Milner who Teddy accidentally invites out on a date thinking he has Charlotte on the line.

Radner's timing and metamorphosis from meek assistant to the scorned woman from hell is laugh out loud funny. But she's really the only funny thing in the film.

Chalres Grodin brings a few grins as a gay buddy of Teddy's, the superb Joseph Bologna is totally wasted as a repulsive Lothario.

Wilder has always been at his best with directors like Mel Brooks that temper his instinct to go over the top. Here he's directing himself and there's no set up, just a lot of loud and BIG bits that mostly fall flat.

The nudity is 80's frank and pretty shocking for a PG-13 film, this would be an R today! The songs by Stevie Wonder are like a jukebox of eighties light pop, with one standout being the Oscar Winner, "I Just Called To Say I Love You" being a highlight.

Charlotte is a baffling character. She goes from ignoring Teddy to surprising him at work without logic.

The only woman character more baffling is Didi, who changes direction mid-film in a nice, surprise twist that Wilder builds on with.....nothing.

It feels like half the movie is on the cutting room floor. You know, the funny parts and the sections of the story that would create continuity.

LeBrock is good though and followed her debut up with "Weird Science" the following summer.

THE WOMAN IN RED is gorgeous. The film around her...meh. I'll give it a C-.

At only 87 minutes long, it feels much longer and in serious need of more punchlines.

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