Pfeiffer returns to the big screen in “Hairspray”

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Michelle Pfeiffer and the rest of the glad-rag cast of Hairspray hit theaters nationwide on Friday. And the big-gun reviewers The New Yorker, New York magazine, Variety and Ebert and Roeper have all jumped out early and given the movie a collective seal of approval, happily suggesting to moviegoers that the film is a good fun romp on history and on the joy of “camp.”

Not that I don’t care about history or the joy of camp, I do, really, but I was perfectly fine with John Waters’ original Hairspray and I’m sensing this version is nowhere near that version of camp. And because I so enjoyed the original version, I’m not all that riled up to shell out, what is it up to now, $800.00 for a single movie ticket without popcorn and a soda? No, what interests me about this movie is that it brought Michelle Pfeiffer out of her professional hiatus.

Yes, it’s nice to see Pfeiffer on the big screen again and out and about doing TV and print interviews the way working actors do as they promote their latest projects. What a seemingly carefree movie in which to make one’s reappearance after a five-year absence. Pfeiffer as Velma Von Tussle looks almost as fun as Pfeiffer as Catwoman.

Frankly, until all the promotions began for the movie, I hadn’t realized I’d missed her all that much these last five years. Because here’s the thing: I’ve always liked Michelle Pfeiffer. But it was liked. Not loved. There was something about many of her performances that left me wanting more. And not more in the sensual, “always leave them wanting more,” seductive sort of way. No, it was more as in … more. More core-level emotion, more exploration of character, more something.

Granted, the woman has been nominated for three Academy Awards, for goodness’ sake. So I don’t blame anyone for laughing at my silly “wanting more” comments. She was first nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1989 for Dangerous Liaisons, then for Best Actress in 1990 for The Fabulous Baker Boys (who can forget that red dress and her sultry version of “Makin’ Whoopee”?).



Pfeiffer’s last Best Actress nomination was 14 years ago for Love Field. These were all really solid and wonderful performances, obviously worthy of recognition. So I suppose, then, that the “more” I often felt was missing has something to do with the kind of powerful transformation I think can occur on screen, one that reaches inside a viewer and takes that viewer into the reality of the character. And, well, I’ve rarely felt that with Michelle Pfeiffer.

Now, I can’t act my way out of a rain-soaked paper bag with a hole in it, so of course my opinion of acting or of an actor is merely just that: an opinion. The odd thing is I’m actually glad she’s back on the screen. At age 49, she is still divine. She has the stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks natural good looks that make a soul sit up straight and take notice. And maybe those quality roles that began to either dry up or trickle down to the early 30-ish actresses by the late 1990s aren’t what Michelle Pfeiffer is looking for now in her late 40s knocking on 50’s door.

Maybe now she can move into roles that fit her charm and style more snugly. Certainly, if she wanted a nice vehicle to drive on TV like many women her age are choosing to do, she’d have a pretty good inside track and it wouldn’t even have to be on cable! So I guess this was a very long-winded way of saying, oh, heck, I’ll shell out the hard-earned cash and go and see Hairspray because Michelle Pfeiffer’s in it. What? I might be nitpicky, but I’m not crazy! The woman’s gorgeous!

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