A couple of years ago, a play called Fresh Horses garnered some good reviews for playwright Larry Ketron. The play has been made into a film of the same title (also written by Ketron), but surely not much else can be the same. The movie makes you wonder how anyone could ever have said anything good about this property.
Fresh Horses is about the troubles of a college student (Andrew McCarthy) who has his whole life set up for himself; he’s got the solid career looming, he’s got the engagement to the rich girlfriend, he’s got the responsible job as a numbers caller at the bingo hall. (Well, two out of three isn’t bad.)
Then he goes with a school buddy (Ben Stiller) out to a very strange house in the country owned by a woman (Patti D’Arbanville), who keeps her home open to strays and derelicts. There, McCarthy meets a red-headed vision (Molly Ringwald) and he flips.
As he begins meeting this woman in a little shack by the train line (he literally goes to the other side of the tracks for her), the rest of his life goes awry. The engagement’s off, and he becomes tortured by the thought that this girl has been consistently lying to him; she turns out to be 16 years old and married. That’s trouble.
Director David Anspaugh, who did a nice job with Hoosiers, struggles mightily to make something out of this story, and he achieves a few very handsome shots of the land as well as some sense of the hero’s isolation and consternation. But it’s a tough go, because there is simply nothing very interesting going on in this movie.
One of the fundamental problems is that the Molly Ringwald character is supposed to be one of those voluptuous earth-mother forces of nature who can captivate and ensnare the young hero.
That idea may be clichéd to begin with, but Ringwald is clearly not the actor who can bring it off. The first time McCarthy sees her, as he opens a door in the country house, it’s supposed to be one of those dramatic life-changing moments; but flinging her hair in front of the kitchen refrigerator leaves Ringwald somewhat shy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
First published in the Herald, November 1988
Ben Stiller was in this? I’d forgotten that, and also Viggo Mortensen. This was getting to the end of Ringwald’s big run – she’d been in Godard’s King Lear and James Toback’s The Pick-Up Artist the year before, and For Keeps was also in ’88. That ain’t gonna get it done for the Pretty in Pink fans. This review sounds a little shortened by editorial hands, but I don’t know what else I would have said about the movie.