Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Melodrama for Spinsters

"Maybe you should just become a lesbian."

I expected several things from my Wednesday night out with Pru - a nice dinner, an award-winning movie, Tootsie Rolls, plenty of girl talk - but not a suggestion that I switch teams.

We arrived at Acacia to find the bar full up, so we made do in chairs. "I know you prefer the bar, but this way we can talk face to face instead of side by side," she cajoled as we headed to a nearby table. The only problem with the table, we discovered, was that the server was tall and our seats were low, and frequently his questions and comments landed somewhere imperceptible over our heads.

Pru's poison of choice was a Monkey Shoulder ("Which is different than a monkey on your back, that's drugs," she joked) while I sipped a jewel-toned elixir of beet juice, sage and citrus that the barman had concocted for me after a request for something complicated yet sassy.

Yet again I succumbed to the bar menu, seduced by the market fish, tonight rockfish, and a stellar salad of mixed greens, matchsticks of Granny Smith apples, golden raisins and tons of cashews dressed in a celery seed vinaigrette that amplified the salad's flavors rather than drowning them in dressing. As always, the rockfish was cooked to perfection and a side of toothsome brussels sprouts finished out the meal.

It was over dinner that Pru again steered the conversation to my personal life, accusing me of flipping my priorities from what she'd last heard they were. As I reminded her, you don't know what you're willing to compromise on until you try and fail.

Responding to her suggestion that I try batting for the other team, I expressed reservations. "Oh, they have solutions for that!" she assured me. Like with so many other things, she has far more experience in certain arenas than I ever will.

And one of the arenas she'll let me mention is classic film. Appalled when I admitted that I'd never seen the Ingrid Bergman/Charles Boyer masterpiece "Gaslight," she immediately volunteered to join me for the Byrd's screening, part of their film noir series this month.

As I assured her, I know what the term "gaslighting" means, and even the source of the term, I just hadn't seen the actual film (based on a play) from which it had sprung. Thank heavens the Byrd is there to raise my cultural literacy as often as it does.

Given that there was a good-sized crowd there tonight, I'm betting that I wasn't the only "Gaslight" virgin in house. We slid into our seats moments before an Amazon-sized woman sat down directly in front of Pru, but we weren't shy about grabbing our popcorn and moving a few rows down in front of them.

Seeing Ingrid Bergman at 29 was especially compelling since I'd just seen her just last week in "Autumn Sonata," filmed when she was 63, and I don't care how beautiful you are (and she was) or how well you take care of yourself, there's a world of difference between how you look at those ages.

Add to that incredible beauty her Oscar-winning performance and it was a given that she was going to be part of the reason I was entranced by "Gaslight," with its moody lighting and shadowy cinematography. For obvious reasons, I didn't tell Pru, but my only frame of reference for Charles Boyer was an "I Love Lucy" episode, so I was unprepared for what he could convey with those hooded eyelids and apathetic looks.

I was totally caught up in the story when somebody's phone began ringing and finally the guy two rows in front of us silenced it but continued texting (ping! ping!), the phone's light sending up an obnoxious beacon to all of us around him. The guy sitting directly in front of us did his best to make him stop, exaggeratedly clearing his throat repeatedly, but the jerk took his time winding down his conversation.

To quote the Byrd's iconic litter promo, some people need parental guidance.

The movie ended so satisfyingly with the evil husband tied to a chair in the attic and our heroine toying with him like a mouse, brandishing a knife and showing him that two could play at being the psychological abuser. Nice twist for 1944.

We walked out talking about how it had taken me almost until the final scene to realize that the maid had been played by a very young Angela Lansbury, despite Pru having commented during the opening credits, "Oh! I forgot Angela Lansbury was in this."

Honestly, I didn't even recognize her. 

That failure on my part only made it more pathetic when we were walking out and I spotted a poster for an upcoming screening of "The Big Lebowski," mentioning oh-so casually that I'd never seen that, either.

Fortunately, I hear the Byrd has solutions for that, too.


  1. Lord hold me back...but I've got to say it ---- never seen "The Big Lebowski" ??????????????

    have you been in a ditch somewhere -- hiding under a rock?

    To your room child & stand in the corner!


  2. I know, I know, so many reasons to be chided!

  3. And I know I chide you endlessly. I'm just lucky that you take me along to see these gems with your fresh eyes.

  4. Who better than a movie buff such as yourself to guide the uninformed?