Today I’m going to write about a different kind of movie. It isn’t great; it has too many stereotypes; and it isn’t even a clever take on the genre (take your pick: fairy godmother or selfish person learns humility). Still, it’s fun to watch – unless you did on YouTube.com like I did – and you’ll be surprised by several of the turns by actors you wouldn’t expect much from. So, I’m reviewing “Maid to Order” … it stars Ally Sheedy, who was near the end of the “Brat Pack” craze of the 1980s when she made this one. If you check it out on YouTube then it’s my recommendation not to do it through a flat-screen TV. The quality of this copy of “Maid to Order” is horrible and such problems are less magnified on a laptop or tablet.
‘Maid to Order’
(1987; 93 minutes; rated PG; directed by Amy Jones (now titled as Amy Holden Jones) and starring Ally Sheedy, Beverly D’Angelo and Michael Ontkean)
AN UNCONVENTIONAL FAIRY GODMOTHER AND A LIFE LESSON
It’s easy not to like the idea of “Maid to Order.” It has stereotypes; clichés abound; and everything works out perfectly in the end. Bleeecchhh, right? Not so quick! “Maid to Order” may not have been nominated for – much less win – any awards, but it does have its moments; it has a couple of nice turns from supporting actors; and, despite the shortcomings, leaves you in a good mood.
The premise of “Maid to Order” has been done before: a spoiled young person has to learn how not to be spoiled; learn how to be humble; and then be part of the impetus that propels everyone into happily ever after.
Ally Sheedy plays spoiled rich girl “Jessie Montgomery” and her father’s money keeps her partying all the time. As the film opens she’s starting to get the cold shoulder from her father (Tom Skerritt as “Charles Montgomery”), who is getting fed up with his daughter’s excesses. Well, she winds up in jail but gets out and has all charges dropped because of her unconventional fairy godmother – a nearly chain-smoking Beverly D’Angelo as “Stella.” However, everything else about her past is erased, too. She doesn’t have a father, friends or money. Now, she’s on her own and has to make her own way.
You instantly see where “Maid to Order” is going, but it’s not a terrible ride. Sheedy manages to get a job at a entertainment mogul’s estate and (of course) fumbles every ball she’s asked to carry. However, she perseveres and makes friends with the staff, who she alienated through a variety of incompetencies. Everything pulls together in the end, she’s reunited with a father who now remembers her and she falls in love (cue very artistically done credits).
Sheedy is solid here and does all the youthful emotions very well: petulant, spoiled (there is a difference and she knows it), falsely ingratiating and finally a bit mature. Sheedy knows what she’s doing and sails through it with aplomb but stretches it a big when she calls out her fair godmother’s name in despair, “Stella! Stella!” She has also been in “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “WarGames” (click here for my review) and more recently on the terrific TV show “Psych.”
D’Angelo, who is probably most famous as the mother on the National Lampoon “Vacation” films (click here for my review of “Christmas Vacation”), is one step away from good as “Stella.” She has the smoking down pat, but doesn’t bring much enthusiasm to the role. It would be interesting to have seen a different actor here. D’Angelo has also been in “Hair,” “American History X” and “First Love.”
The nicest turn in “Maid to Order” kind of comes out of left field and is shared by Valerie Perrine and Dick Shawn, who play the distinctly different couple “Georgette and Stan Starkey.” He’s in show business and she comes off as being into herself and any other vacuous thing you can name. However, both actors bring a nice bit of humanity to their characters – both turn out to be very human once you get to know them (just watch Shawn dance with his daughter at the end). Shawn was in the original “The Producers” and “Love at First Bite” while Perrine has significantly more critically acclaimed credentials as an Oscar-nominated actress (Bob Fosse’s “Lenny” with Dustin Hoffman) and was also in “The Electric Horseman” with Robert Redford.
Skerritt is cool, collected and so low-key that you kind of forget him after a while here. He certainly isn’t putting out much of his considerable talent, which earned him two Golden Globe nominations. Skerritt was in the “MASH” movie (remember, no asterisks … those were only in the movie posters) as well as “Top Gun” and the critically acclaimed sci-fi horror film “Alien.”
The actors who play the other employees at the mogul’s house are Michael Ontkean, Merry Clayton and Begoña Plaza (she now goes by Begonya). The three are competent and keep the film on track, but not as wonderfully as they could have been. Each was a potential break-out for the movie, but it just doesn’t happen.
“Maid to Order” was pretty much a bomb at the box office in 1987. It was the 89th ranked film of the year with $9.8 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. It’s simply pathetic that films that did better with audiences that year included “Ernest Goes to Camp” (No. 50 with $23.5 million) and “Benji the Hunted” (No. 52 with $22.2 million). Even worse is that “Ernest” beat out the simply terrific and critically acclaimed “Raising Arizona” (No. 51 with $22.8 million). The No. 1 film was “3 Men and a Baby” with $167.7 million).
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- Katey Sagal’s career would skyrocket in 1987 … but not with “Maid to Order.” She would be on the megahit TV series “Married With Children.” She has a small part here as “Louise.”
- Rain Phoenix plays “Brie Starkey” (the rich couple’s daughter) and while she was billed here as “Rainbow,” she has a wonderful real name: Rain Joan of Arc Phoenix.
- Directly from IMDb.com: “The band at the party, the Loaded Blanks, are actually the hard rock band Great White.”
- The actor with the role with no name but an occupation (“Hooker in Jail”) is Khandi Alexander, who has also been in “There’s Something About Mary” and TV’s “NewsRadio.”
© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015.
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