Private Benjamin (1980)

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What a delight this is – a movie about a woman who finally finds herself – without a man, or a clue. So she ENLISTS??? This starts hilariously and even lewdly when Judy Benjamin’s second hubby dies in flagrante and she holes up in a motel eating pizza. The US Army comes calling at a weak moment. It’s not the Club Med experience after all. But in Europe she gains a real sense of self … and is diverted by a Frenchman who lures her away and subjects her to the kind of makeover Goldie Hawn sends up in Death Becomes Her. This mix of comedy, rites of passage, marriage and forces satire was huge and gave the fabulous Ms Hawn a sense of control over her career (she produced) which however dissipated fairly quickly. But it was Nancy Meyers’ first screenplay – and she went (eventually) from strength to strength. I write about it in my book about Meyers on sale at Amazon (shameless plug). Pathways of Desire:  Emotional Architecture in the Films of Nancy Meyers is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BYFC4QW

The Sugarland Express (1974)

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Goldie Hawn hasn’t made a film in over a decade. She is renowned as a beautiful, quirky, skillful comedienne yet probably her greatest performance came in Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical feature. Let nobody say that his first political films came in the 80s, here he was making quite the statement about rednecks, child protection, prison and gun law. The sly pre-release escape of Lou Jean and her husband (William Atherton) plays against precisely this southern backdrop as she determines to rescue their toddler son from his state-appointed foster family and they end up taking a hapless policeman hostage. The pursuit is statewide and the public line the roads to show their support for the dementedly funny couple. Spielberg was working from a screenplay by Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins with a story he helped devise from a real incident a few years earlier.  Aside from the technical beauty of the film and some real photographic innovations by Vilmos Zsigmond, this film is distinguished by Hawn’s brilliance. She turned 70 a few days ago. How is that possible?  Happy birthday, Goldie.