Sunday, March 16, 2014

Best in Show


Norman had another little bout with the bottle this week. To top things off, he tripped over one of my false eyelashes that I had carelessly left on the bathroom floor and cracked several ribs against the side of the bidet. We had to spend several uncomfortable hours in the emergency room at Cedars Sinai where he received intravenous pain medication and I entertained the orderlies by doing some modern ballet with a gurney. They did not need to admit him so he has been at home resting, but in a good deal of pain, despite Nurse Tameka’s administration of intranasal Percocet. This is making his normally sweet disposition somewhat irascible and he's tended to blame me for everything from the World Trade Organization to the price of Spam.

Unfortunately, I have had to put my new show Vicki on Ricki , my one-woman salute to Ricki Lake, on hold in order to tend to my man. The gala opening, planned for the Coconut Grove in Miami this next week, has been postponed. It's too bad - I had arranged for that darling little man, Harrison Ford to make a surprise entrance to recreate the wonderful repartee between him and Ricki in Working Girl . Then I launched into Carly Simon's Let the River Run while wearing that divine pink taffeta bridesmaid’s dress. This may be a blessing in disguise and allow me and my fabulous director, Peter Sellars, to fine tune the second act. The talk show segment just hasn't been jelling; the world of the trailer park just isn’t lending itself to the wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein medley we’re using as counterpoint. Although, the backup dancers, dressed as the bouncers, were fabulous in their June is Busting Out All Over moment.

Norman was up and tottering about by the weekend so we trussed him up in some of my old nylons as chest binders and ventured out to the local Cineplex for our usual matinee outing. This week's offering was the new Christopher Guest mockumentary Best in Show about the trials and tribulations of dog owners competing in the rarified world of high toned dog shows. Norman laughed so much that the nylons came loose with a snap and knocked the wig off the elderly lady in the row in front of us. We had to pay off the theater manager to keep it out of the local tabloids.

Christopher Guest's movies as writer and/or director (prior efforts include Waiting for Guffman The Big Picture , and This is Spinal Tap ) depend heavily on the comedy of life and there is a fine line between success and failure in this type of movie making. We must recognize the characters as truly human, no matter how ridiculous the situation, or they become caricatures and the humor will be lost like air from a punctured balloon. Fortunately, in his latest effort, he succeeds masterfully. We care about all the individuals and their little psychodramas as they go after the coveted Best in Show cup with their little four footed friends (who are much less neurotic and more well adjusted than their humans). Standouts include Parker Posey, as a self-absorbed yuppie with a Weimeraner and a penchant for catalog shopping. She has a wonderful quasi-psychotic break while tearing Philadelphia apart looking for a favored missing dog toy. Catherine O'Hara, that criminally underused comedienne of the screen, is hysterical and almost unrecognizable as the Florida matron with a good time gal past and a Norwich Terrier. Eugene Levy, as her dim witted husband with two literal left feet, shows his usual impeccable timing and the two duet on a couple of 'terrier' songs that are surreal bits of comic genius. Christopher Guest is the owner of a Bloodhound - a good old backwoods boy who develops some unexpected traits late in the movie. He's disappeared so far into the character that it’s difficult to believe that this is the same man that gave us the fey director from Waiting for Guffman . John Michael Higgins, the original stage Jeffrey , gives a campy, over the top performance as a queen with a Shih-Tzu and more clothes than an International Male catalogue; he and Michael McKean, as his lover, could have strayed into offensive territory but successfully walk a fine line and remain human and endearing. The best, however, is Fred Willard as the dim witted 'Color Commentator' for the event who gives a personal best performance which is so real, the academy will never consider it acting.

Pug sex. Busy Bee toys. Lesbian dog trainer. Smarmy hotel manager. Funny looking kid with parachute. Poodle haircuts. Anna Nicole Smith take-off. Bad rope tricks. Even worse ventriloquism.

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