Wild Oats full movie review - MacLaine and Lange shine in whimsical "Wild Oats"
Synopsis: Two best friends take off to the Canary Islands after one of them is accidentally awarded $5,000,000 by her recently deceased husband's insurance company.
Towards the end of "Wild Oats", an ebullient Shirley MacLaine and a luminous Jessica Lange share a poignant, tearful moment that reminds one of the power of love, friendship and spontaneity. Maddie (Lange) has made a crucial decision about the direction she will take after having seen her quiet life unexpectedly disrupted by cancer, Eva's (MacLaine) $5,000,000 windfall, a tropical island caper and, finally, love. As she hugs and thanks her best friend of forty years for the adventure of a lifetime, one gets the feeling that Lange is thanking MacLaine as a mentor and a friend. This becomes the key ingredient of the film: the chemistry between and prowess of its two stars, who literally light up the small screen with charm, humor and heartbreak. Coco Chanel once said, "You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty and irresistible for the rest of your life." This has never been truer of MacLaine and Lange.
Still, The Weinstein Company's latest comedy premiered on the Lifetime Channel with little fanfare. Plagued by a chaotic and uncertain shoot, production for "Wild Oats" was completed in February of 2015, after which it sat on the shelf before being suddenly pulled from a September 16, 2016 limited theatrical release and dumped on basic cable. Nonetheless, with a funny, charming script by Gary Kanew and Claudia Myers, a whimsical score by George Fenton, and exuberant and effervescent performances from MacLaine and Lange, this is probably Andy Tennant's best directorial effort since "The Wonder Years" and "Ever After". Tennant directs this with an assured hand and pulls it off. The picture shines and feels every much the theatrical film it was intended to be. One can't help but wonder what the critical and financial response would've been had it been allowed a life in theaters. It's very likely this will get its moment of redemption next year at the Emmys and other awards bodies.
MacLaine and Lange spar with the freedom of icons with nothing left to prove, and MacLaine has the grace to step aside and let Lange shine and nearly claim the movie. She in turn reveals herself to be just as adept at comedy as she is at tragedy, flitting, flirting and farting around (literally!) like a feisty, ethereal cherub. Maddie is by turns impatient, fun-loving, prideful, vulnerable and often hilarious: traits Lange wields to compose a performance that is both comfortingly grounded and zanily unpredictable. There's a moment one-third of the way through the film in which she attempts to explain Eva's strange behavior at an ATM. "He was a machine," Maddie blurts out in reference to Eva's recently deceased husband, mumbling something incoherent afterwards. It's one of her character's funniest moments and one of Lange's finest. Another moment comes as she readies herself for a night out. Looking in the mirror, she lets out a cry of disappointment before brushing it away and flirting with her reflection. Priceless. Lange handles comedy here with gusto and aplomb, though when the time comes to display her prodigious dramatic talents, she triumphs there too. I can see her getting double nods next year: Supporting for "Wild Oats" and Lead for "Feud". She's so good here, I can even see her winning for this", especially after being overlooked this year for her wonderfully nuanced work in Louis C.K.'s masterpiece, "Horace and Pete", and giving Sarandon a clearer path to her first Emmy for "Feud".
Demi Moore as MacLaine's uptight daughter is surprisingly effective, masterfully and subtly playing on the clichés of her character type, but not succumbing to them. Her "Yes it is!" breakdown is hilarious.
"Wild Oats" doesn't stray from the tested formulas of the genre, but it does get those formulas right. What the screenwriters lack in innovativeness, Tennant makes up for with a keen eye and generosity, to the actors and in turn, the audience.