Bette Midler and Shelley Long star in this female buddy picture from 1987. Long plays Lauren Ames, an actress whose ambition far outweighs her success despite her many years of taking classes; Midler plays Sandy Brozinsky, a fast-talking, foul-mouthed waitress from the wrong side of the tracks who horns her way into Lauren’s exclusive drama class on a lark. Unbeknown to each other, Sandy and Lauren are both seeing the same impossibly perfect man, Michael Santers (Peter Coyote). When Michael inexplicably fakes his death, Sandy and Lauren wind up joining forces to track him down. A wacky, cross-country caper ensues, and both women discover that there’s a lot more to the man they love–not to mention their suspiciously homicidal Russian acting coach–than they ever imagined.
’80s Hair: Bette Midler’s character. It’s not teased or anything, but it is as wide as her shoulder-padded shoulders.
Adults Dressed as Children: Lauren and Sandy sneak into a whorehouse thinking they’re convincingly disguised as men; the madame takes them for thirteen-year-old boys. Our intrepid heroines run with it.
Madame: Does your daddy know you’re here?
Lauren (in cowboy accent): Hell, yes, he told us where to come! Come, git it?
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Sandy is visibly shaken when she believes Lauren has been shot dead.
Badass Adorable: Lauren develops into this over the course of the film.
Bad Bad Acting: Practiced by many of Stan’s students, as he enjoys pointing out. Even Lauren cringes at the spectacle of one particular student’s immensely hammy non-dialogue “performance” of a moment from Oedipus The King.
Beware the Quiet Ones: Lauren, fed up with the mystery, kicks open a crackhouse door, waves a toy gun around (back in a day when toy guns looked real), and starts impersonating an angry cop with a screw loose. Even Sandy is shocked.
Briefcase Full of Money: Or, rather, a cute, ducky-emblazoned lunchbox full of money.
Butt Monkey: Frank. Also, anyone who takes Stanislav Korzenowsky’s acting class.
Calling Your Orgasms: Michael’s telltale chant of, “Oh God. Oh God. Ohhh God. Ohhhgod–OHHHGOD!!!”
The Casanova: Michael
Cat Fight: Lauren and Sandy duke it out in the morgue.
Cheap Costume: The ladies are forced to improvise quite frequently.
Chekhov’s Armory: The film is made of this. The climax, in fact, centers around pretty much everything we saw Lauren doing in her acting and ballet classes at the very beginning. (Also, Sandy’s stolen Christmas tree ornament comes in pretty handy.)
Cluster F-Bomb: Sandy sure loves ’em–which Lauren lampshades. But ironically, the most blatant example in the film is Lauren doing her “Crazy / Badass Cop” impression.
Comically Missing the Point: Lauren holds a gun to Stan after he tries to kill her, then proceeds to berate him for making a mockery of the New York acting community. Sandy has to rush over to get her to snap out of it….
Daddy’s Girl: Lauren is this, as we see when she tries to borrow money for Korzenowsky’s class from her parents. Her mother won’t let her in the door; her father throws her a check from the window of their high-rise.
Deadpan Snarker: Sandy, all the freaking time. She’s a bit of a Snark Knight.
Stan is quite snarky, himself.
Lauren is a bit of a Lady Snarker.
Defector from Commie Land: Stan’s way of avoiding repercussions back in Mother Russia.
He is even able to bargain for perks, including a condo on the Potomac and Redskins season tickets.
Disguised in Drag
Drama Queen: Lauren can certainly be this way.
Erotic Eating: Lauren (with sexy Russian Bond Girl voice) + Michael + a chicken leg.
Expy: Lauren is in many ways a “clone” of Diane Chambers, except that she’s also great at ballet. (And Lauren’s willing to curse, if the situation calls for it.) Especially notable in that Shelley Long tends to try and downplay any Diane-like “quirks” when playing other characters–but in this film, she at times seems to be cranking it Up to Eleven.
Fake Nationality: In-Universe and out: Robert Prosky is an American playing a Russian who, at one point, disguises himself as an American.
Stan (removing his mask): So. Some of us who teach can also do.
Friend to All Children: Implied, with Lauren. She is clearly very touched when Michael tells her he’s trying to find the perfect Halloween costume, to help out a kid who’s unable to find acceptance among his classmates. Later, she makes a point to tell Sandy to let her talk to the kid holding them at gunpoint–presumably because she’s better with children.
Funny Background Event: When Sandy is talking to her boyfriend in the phone company over the phone, Lauren paces impatiently behind her–and can be seen briefly mockingly mimicking Sandy’s boisterousness.
Gag Penis / Bigger Is Better in Bed: Michael’s defining physical characteristic, which is how Lauren and Sandy know the burned corpse at the morgue isn’t him.
Sandy: Michael was not a guy other guys would’ve made fun of in the locker room, okay?
Good People Have Good Sex: Lauren sports a radiant glow and a BIG smile after her night with Michael, which Sandy makes sure to comment on. Michael turns out to be a bad guy, though.
Groin Attack: Threatened by Sandy (“I’ll shoot it off, Stan”).
Lauren includes this threat in her Badass Cop impression when she and Sandy interrogate the drug dealers.
Instant Seduction: The first time Lauren meets Michael, he’s a customer in the costume shop where she works. She’s moved by his telling her he’s a teacher trying to find the perfect costume for one of his students who’s trying hard to fit in. She offers to help him make one. The very next scene shows the two of them in bed, Michael “apologizing” for the quick turn of events, explaining that “I just…had to kiss you.” Lauren, radiant with afterglow, is charmed even more by this.
The Lad-ette: Sandy’s not above talkin’ trash and often acting pretty “macho” with the best of them, though she still cares about her physical appearance in the “feminine” fashion, among other things.
Lampshade Hanging: When our gals finally manage to reach one of their destinations after an especially exhausting ordeal, a bunch of guys drive by, hooting and whistling and otherwise calling out to them in Hello, Nurse! fashion. Lauren can’t resist:
Lauren: Now, why do they do that? Has there ever been one woman in the history of the world who actually said–(with Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose) “Yes, fellas, please–take me, now!”?
Sandy: (Wimpering) For a bed and a bath, I…I’d consider it–
Lauren: Bite your tongue….
Literary Allusion Title: Hamlet, in case you don’t recognize the quote….
Lovely Angels: Lauren and Sandy find themselves becoming this, each discovering their Hidden Badass over the course of the film.
Ms. Fanservice: Lauren has a few moments of this. In addition to her nights with Michael, the scene in Stan’s waiting room has her dressed in an outfit that has a see-through blouse covering Absolute Cleavage that goes down to her waist.
It gets better. Shortly before Sandy shows up, Lauren engages in some breathing exercises that quickly sound like she’s partaking in something else entirely….
Mugged for Disguise: Lauren and Sandy appropriate Frank’s clothes. (At least they’re nice enough to leave him their skirts and blouses.)
The Ophelia: Well, in a literal way: Sandy plays Ophelia in the production of Hamlet at the end.
The Power of Acting: It turns out that Lauren’s many years of studying the theater pay off in tracking down Michael and foiling the bad guys.
Ransacked Room: The film plays this straight, then spoofs it. First, the two women go to Lauren’s apartment while it’s being ransacked. After a daring escape, they head to Sandy’s place to find it a complete mess as well. Lauren cries, “Oh, no, they’ve been here!” and tries to run, but Sandy grabs her and says, “Nobody’s been here. This is normal.”
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Sandy is red, and Lauren is blue.
Rogue Agent: What Michael turns out to be.
Scary Black Man: Lauren and Sandy’s cab driver.
Sdrawkcab Name: Sort of. Stan’s name is almost the reverse of real-life actor Constantin Stanislavsky.
Serious Business: Lauren does not appreciate any insults to the honor of the theater–to the point where we hear her arguing with Sandy over the value of Hamlet– as the credits start rolling!
Shakespearean Actors: What Lauren aspires to be. Her ambition is to play Hamlet, which she finally accomplishes at the end of the film.
Shout-Out: Sandy once sarcastically calls out to Lauren as “Lady Di”. Shelley Long, of course, is most famous for playing Diane Chambers of Cheers.
A retroactive example: When Sandy gives a brief summary of the situation to Frank, he looks at her in bewilderment and asks, “The ’60s were good to you, weren’t they?” This line would be recycled for Cars, where an inverted version would be asked of George Carlin’s character, Fillmore….
Spirited Young Lady: Lauren, who is ladylike and feminine Up to Eleven, but is quite skilled at fencing and is not afraid to actually stab her match opponent in the beginning of the film.
Spoiled Sweet: Lauren. To her credit, she’s kind of aware of it, as she explains to Sandy when they argue over who should go over to the super-intimidating cab driver….
Stoners Are Funny: Especially when they’re played by George Carlin.
Teeny Weenie: The unfortunate fellow at the morgue, falsely identified as Michael, as Sandy tries to explain to the cops:
Lauren: I think he’s got the big picture now–
Sandy: Oh, I don’t think he does! (To cop) This guy in the morgue…whoever he is…he’s got a… (Wicked grin) Does the phrase “needle-dick”–”the bugfucker”–mean anything to you?
The Eighties: Check out those opening credits.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Played with. Downplayed for Sandy, who is technically more of The Lad-ette, but Lauren most definitely qualifies as a Girly Girl.
Universal Poison: What Michael stole. Specifically, a green toxin that will destroy all vegetation around the world with just a few drops.
Vanity Is Feminine: At one point, the gals stop right what they’re doing to check their makeup, and then spend the next moment or two remarking on how they look and whether or not their hair colors are natural.
We Need a Distraction: How about emptying an entire lunchbox filled with money into a crowd of waiting airline passengers?
Wham Line: “Nine years of ballet, asshole!”
White Guilt: Lauren gets Tongue Tied when she tries to say “Caucasian”, while trying to describe Michael to the black cab driver–finally settling for nervously dropping race entirely (and announcing it). She ends up panicking over possibly digging herself deeper…and later gets very nervous over the fact that the man soon drives her and Sandy deep into Harlem. Sandy can’t resist ribbing her about it.
You Need to Get Laid: Sandy’s reply when Lauren explodes at her in their first encounter.
Lauren’s shocked silence implies it hits VERY close to home.