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Wednesday, January 19,2011

The Screening Room

Hook-ups lead to heartaches in Hollywood

by James Sanford
In the raunchy comedy "No Strings Attached," Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher will endeavor to enjoy a purely physical relationship with none of those messy emotional complications. If Hollywood history is any indication, it won’t work — it never does. Witness these classic cases in point.

"Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (1977) Judith Rossner’s sizzling bestseller (based on a terrifying true story) follows Catholic schoolteacher Theresa Dunn (marvelously played by a fearless Diane Keaton), who bounces from sleazy singles bars to decadent disco lounges in pursuit of shortterm thrills. An electrifying young Richard Gere is one of her many Romeos, and even though he’s certifiably nuts you can see why Theresa can’t resist him.


A happy ending?: Hardly.


With a strobe light pulsating in the background, poor Theresa dies long before disco does.


"About Last Night" (1986) David Mamet’s "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" becomes a glossy vehicle for Demi Moore and Rob Lowe, as Debbie and Dan, young urbanites who are both experts at loving ’em and leaving ’em. But their casual fling leads to serious second-guessing.


Eventually Dan begins stalking Debbie on Rush Street, and Debbie has to beg him to lay off. "I don’t want to have to start drinking in the suburbs," she grouses.


A happy ending?: Happier than Mamet’s cynical original, certainly. Signs seem to point to Dan and Debbie putting their pasts behind them and settling into Yuppie domesticity, with John Waite and Sheena Easton providing the perfect soundtrack.


"The Pick-Up Artist" (1987) In one of his early lead roles, Robert Downey Jr. is Jack Jericho, a playboy on the prowl who never says no to a pretty face. However, that may all be ancient history after he makes a date with museum docent Randy (Molly Ringwald) — who’s not exactly the queen of commitment herself.


Speaking of pick-up artists, Warren Beatty produced the movie (and reportedly directed Ringwald’s scenes), but hastily removed his name from the final credits.


A happy ending?: Things work out better for Jack and Randy than they did for the film itself, which was the first real bomb of Ringwald’s career. It wasn’t a boom time for Beatty, either: "The Pick-Up Artist" opened only a few months after Beatty’s box office disaster "Ishtar."


"Boomerang" (1992) Advertising whiz Marcus Graham (Eddie Murphy) likes his women the way he likes his TV commercials: in 30- and 60-second installments.


Imagine his surprise when he falls in love with his sizzlingly hot new boss, Jacqueline (Robin Givens), only to find she plays the same game he does.


A happy ending?: Not for Marcus and Jacqueline. She remains one cold, calculating cookie, despite his attempts to warm her up, But Marcus gets Halle Berry as a consolation prize, so who’s complaining?


"Vanilla Sky" (2001) Rich,aimless David Aames (Tom Cruise) enjoys occasional "chicken soup parties" with his former flame, the troubled would-be singer Julianna Gianni (Cameron Diaz, in one of her best roles).


Although she’s in love, Julianna plays it cool until she finds out David is chasing Spanish fly girl Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz).


A happy ending?: Heavens, no. Things get savagely surrealistic as Julianna tries to kill David in a car crash and a grossly disfigured David suffocates her — except that she may have already been killed in the automobile accident. Or perhaps not. Who knows?


Maybe Cruz had a clue what was going on in writer-director Cameron Crowe’s sleek remake of the Spanish shocker "Abre los Ojos" — Cruz was in the original, after all — but audiences were mystified. About the only thing that seemed certain was that the chicken soup parties were definitely over.

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