by Martin Hafer
Despite starring Shirley MacLaine and Jessica Lange, Wild Oats was in and out of theaters with hardly any notice…and losing a ton of money in the process. So what happened?! Surely with Shirley (and Jessica) this film should have been terrific. I kept asking myself this as I watched the film…because for a while I was really enjoying myself. And then….the film quickly went from fun and silly to, well, rather dumb. Rarely have I ever enjoyed a film as much as I was enjoying this one yet ended up disliking it! What happened??!! Quite simply…it was like two movies…one worth seeing and one hurriedly put together even though it often made little sense. It’s a shame as the actresses were terrific and deserved better material.
The film began wonderfully…with a darkly comic funeral. I know funerals are not supposed to be funny…but the writing was spot on and the women hysterical. It seems that Eva (MacLaine) just lost her husband and she is going to have to sell her home and economize. However, when the insurance company makes a mistake and accidentally sends her a check for $5,000,000 instead of $50,000, her friend Maddie (Lange) convinces her that they should go on the adventure of their lives and they set off for the Canary Islands. All of this is delightful and even once they arrive in this tropical island, things stay fun…at least for a while.
Unfortunately, the film lost its momentum when a scam artist (Billy Connolly) cheats Eva out of her casino winnings (and they are astounding) and an insurance agent (Howard Hesseman) shows up looking for their $4,950,000! It then becomes a kooky comedy…and I say kooky like it’s some sort of dopey sit-com. The two ladies go into the mansion of the most dangerous and famous criminal in all of the Islands…and instead of getting killed, everything just works out magically and everyone has a happily ever after! Huh?! None of this makes any sense and it left me feeling cheated. I had invested so much time and interest in the film only to have a silly, contrived ending that just left me annoyed.
If you are interested in seeing it anyway, the film just debuted on Netflix and is available on DVD through this service (no streaming option at this time). However, I’d strongly recommend you instead rent Elsa & Fred---a truly delightful film MacLaine recently made with Christopher Plummer and which is also available through this service. It’s a remake of an Argentine film of the same name and both are well worth seeing.Share: