Elaine May is known as one of the funniest and most witty comics of all time, but her two directorial projects, “The Heartbreak Kid” (1972) and “Mikey and Nicky” (1976), are about as bleak as human relationships. as you can imagine. The slogan for “Mikey and Nicky” was actually: “Mikey and Nicky … don’t expect them to like you.” What was a way to warn the audience that this film, like “Child with a Broken Heart”, was non-commercial and difficult and tragic before the ban, which does not give any relief. These two May movies can cause alienation because what they say is the exact opposite of what most Hollywood movies are relentlessly about people and life.
Her long life is as mysterious as her own quirky career. But Mae will soon receive historic recognition for her work: she will host an honorary Oscar along with Danny Glover, Samuel L. Jackson and Liv Ullman at this year’s ceremony, originally scheduled for Jan. 15 but postponed due to Omicron until an undisclosed date.
Mae worked on the script «Mikey and Nicky”Because she conducted an audit of classes at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s, perhaps even before she met her impromptu partner Mike Nichols and fundamentally changed American comedy in the late 1950s. In May-Nichols’ classic sketches, which very sharply satirize the types of behavior and neurosis of Americans, May often rules in some way, or she has power over Nichols, and no matter how he is an expert, it is May who sets the tone for these procedures and gets the biggest laugh with her delivery hanged.
Mae’s career has gone through unexplained seizures and begins after her professional breakup with Nichols in 1961, and in her sadly small piece “Mikey and Nicky” acts as her masterpiece. This is a story about two low-level mafia guys who have been friends since childhood: Nicki (John Cassavetes), a terribly selfish man with a lot of pure negative energy, and Mikey (Peter Falk), who gave his whole life as a foil and his friend’s assistant. . The dynamics between the two friends change over the course of one long night in which Nicki, whose life-killing mob refuses to behave in any reasonable way while Mikey tries to drive him out of town.
In the initial sequence Mikey from Falk gently clings to his friend when he sees how scared Nicki is. Nicki needs to be cautiously introduced into this moment of complete vulnerability, which seems to encourage him to subsequently behave as the worst possible. Nicki refuses to be resolute and make any escape plans; instead he constantly asserts his power over Mikey. At the lowest point, Nicki tries to pick up the girl at a bar filled with African Americans and makes racist remarks, after which Mikey kicks him out.
Nicky insists on invading the cemetery to visit the grave of his dead mother; he does nothing all night but insists on work. Nicky and Mikey have a long discussion of their shared past in this cemetery, a conversation that will eventually haunt the final scene of the film. (The careful structure of Mae’s script for “Mikey and Nicky” is revealed only gradually.)
Nicki insists he knows Mikey best because he’s been there from the beginning, and Mikey disagrees. Mikey says his wife knows as much about him as he has told her stories about his youth. Nicki insists it’s not the same.
The turning point in “Mikey and Nicky” comes after Nicky humiliates both Mikey and the pathetic girl he sees for sex, named Nellie (Carol Grace). When they argue on the street, Mikey has a lot of resentment at the way Nicki has treated him all their lives together and especially lately. This skirmish could be over, but Nicki goes too far when she accidentally destroys a watch that belonged to Mikey’s father, and then Nicki makes her really fatal mistake when she refuses to realize that the watch had sentimental value to Mikey. Sentimental value? What is it? I can bring you another watch, Nicky says. He is sorry, but in a frivolous way. He is not sorry enough. This is the moment when the inattentive Nicky loses his friend and defender forever.
This loss is especially painful because in the last scene of “Mikey and Nicky”, which takes place in the morning light, Mikey talks to his wife (Rose Arik) about his past and his brother who died, and she does not remember that heard about it before. Not only does she not remember it, but Mae makes it clear that the wife barely listens to her husband when he talks about it, or she just pretends to listen. And so when Mikey blocks his door in front of Nicki and leaves his lifelong friend to face the killer, we are made to understand that Mikey is losing an important part of his life that he will never get back.
Mae is interested in moral mysteries to which she has no answers. Nicki is poisonously cruel and selfish, and so Mikey is right to finally shun him. So why is it so horrible when he does this very human thing that so many films play out as triumphant? The same anxiety can be felt in the main situation for “Hearty child”Which was written by Neil Simon but completely changed due to the fact that Mae decided to focus on the room.
At the beginning of “The Heartbreak Kid” Lenny (Charles Grodin) has just married Lila (Janie Berlin, Mae’s own daughter) and they set off on their honeymoon. Almost immediately it becomes clear, in some nauseating way, that Lenny made a mistake, married this woman. Lila clings to both passive-aggressive and irritable; she’s not as bad a person as Nicki from Cassavetes, but she knows how to emphasize her own pity and helplessness to emotionally blackmail someone to stay with her for life. (Simon wanted the charming neurotic Diane Keaton to play Leela, which of course would have been done for a completely different film.)
Lenny meets on the beach gorgeous blonde Kelly (Sybil Shepherd). Not only does Kelly look like Sybil Shepherd around 1972, but she’s smart, funny and attractive in many ways, even when it seems like she’s doing her best to get a lift from her father (Eddie Albert), and she shows a stale disregard. Lily. An easy and commercial way to make this story is to make Lily’s character a bit cute and endearing, and Kelly’s character – untidy or bitchish. May does not choose this easy path. Instead, she makes Lila (who, again, is played by her own daughter) as unattractive as possible, and Kelly similar to the dream girl we can imagine in reality.
Lenny defeats Kelly despite a very good chance, and breaks off the relationship with Lila, who falls apart when he tells her at the restaurant that they are over. The film ends with a scene after Lenny’s wedding to Kelly, when he seems to have won everything he wanted. So why does it seem like Lenny lost everything? Let’s be very clear here. Just as Mae staged “The Heartbreak Kid” and especially Berlin’s performance as Lila, Lenny needs to break up with Lila and divorce her as soon as possible. He married her only because he wanted to sleep with her, so their marriage is a remnant of a desperately stupid state of affairs between men and women, which, fortunately, no longer exists. We should be glad he left her, or got rid of her. We really should. And more.
“Mikey and Nicky” have the same feeling of “and yet”. Mae is Jewish, and yet the principles at stake in these two stories seem to have a Christian connotation. In the scene at the cemetery in “Mikey and Nicky” Mikey rejects his friend’s talk about the afterlife and says to leave this “Mishegas to Catholics.” But Mae is drawn to this so-called “mischegas” against himself.
American culture is a culture of selfish interests that tells us to sever ties with the “toxic” people in our lives for our good. Nicky from Cassavetes and Lila from Berlin are poisonous in different ways, and Mae doesn’t say you have to put up with people like these two, endlessly or for life. She understands that many cannot do it. But while so many American stories tell of how fighting toxic people in your life is a triumph, Mae sees that instinct leaves both Lenny in “The Heartbreak Kid” and Mikey in “Mikey and Nicki” »Lost, destroyed and morally compromised. However, there is no better way they could behave. Their lives are traps. They are cursed when they do, cursed when they do not. And Mae knows you won’t get out of it to talk or think, no matter how smart or self-deceived you are.
Mae famously stole a few drums with a “Mikey and Nicky” print to make her cut prevail. It has turned into a three-hour version of his dark comedy. ”New leaflet”(1971) and wanted her name removed from a photograph when the studio singled out 80 minutes and three murders. As enjoyable as the New Letter is, not least in Mae’s inspired performance as the unconscious botanist and heiress of Henrietta Lowell – especially in the classic scene where Henrietta gets hooked by the head into the armhole in her “Greek” nightgown, – This is not the case. represent Mae’s vision as “The Heartbreak Kid” and “Mikey and Nicky”. May’s stories on set describe a person immersed in some creative fog, but beneath it seems to have been some Erich von Straheim in the early 1970s, unwilling to stop filming and unwilling anyone else to mess with her films.
Some of Mae’s point of view is certainly palpable in her extremely hateful screenplay for the film Such Good Friends (1971), which she wrote under the pseudonym Esther Dale, but after this surge in the early 1970s she was at a dead end and worked more. all as a script by Dr., famously saved “Tutsi” (1982). The first half hour of her fourth film “Ishtar”(1987) is a rather bold portrait of a male friendship between middle-aged losers, but the story is eventually lost when they both travel to the Middle East.
Mae rarely worked after the failure of this film and publicity about how much it cost and her own alleged indecision. In the film “In the Spirit” (1990), co-written with her daughter Berlin, Mae played a woman with a broken society who was stuck with a New Age cheater (Marla Thomas), who at one point says: “I never never tired of anyone or left someone in my life … they always had to leave me! ”
Mae worked as a screenwriter for her former comedy partner Nichols twice in the 1990s, and she twice worked as a performer on Woody Allen’s projects and laughed at his “Small Time Crooks” (2000). She wrote for the theater and collaborated with her daughter, and the results were sometimes surprising. But in 2018, Mae is unlikely to return as a performer to the stage as an elderly woman whose mind is unraveled in “The Waverly Gallery,” for which she received a well-deserved “Tony” award.
Mae said she based the “Mikey and Nicky” characters on real criminals her parents knew or knew, but it’s hard not to wonder what she herself knows about betrayal and moral compromise. Why did such a brilliant artist work so frugally and so often try to erase herself? Like the moral issues posed by “The Heartbreak Kid” and “Mikey and Nicky,” these questions probably have no answer.