Jack's a Horny Little Devil
Sitting down to watch "The Witches of Eastwick" some 20 years after the first and last time I watched it, it struck me that other than Jack Nicholson's stunning performance as the devil in disguise Daryl Van Horne and his seduction of Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon I couldn't really remember what else there was. Surely, there was more to "The Witches of Eastwick" than just this, but yet now having re-watched it there really isn't anything else and yet "The Witches of Eastwick" is still thoroughly entertaining in a completely whacky and wicked sort of way.
Living in the small, traditional New England town of Eastwick, best friends Alex (Cher - Mask), Jane (Susan Sarandon - The Lovely Bones) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer - Scarface) are all feeling sexually repressed thanks to failed relationships, divorce and being widowed. During one of their girlie nights together as they lament the lack of men in Eastwick they discuss the attributes of their ideal man, down to the smallest or largest of details. Soon the mysterious and vulgar Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson - Terms of Endearment) arrives in Eastwick buying up the big mansion and moving in with his mysterious butler Fidel. But despite being repulsive he manages to tap into the desires of these three friends, seducing each of them with his charm and sexuality. But when an incident shakes the small town of Eastwick Alex, Jane and Sukie get wise to Daryl and his devilish ways.
Compared to a lot of movies the storyline to "The Witches of Eastwick" feels strangely minimal and stripped back of various memorable scenes it's basically 3 women get seduced by the devil and then turning the tables on him. If there is more to it, some hidden depth, moralistic message or meaningful twist then it passed me right by and it makes me wonder whether in adapting John Updike's novel on which "The Witches of Eastwick" is based, big meaningful chunks were missed out in preference to retaining the more amusing stuff.
But what "The Witches of Eastwick" lacks in storyline it makes up for with plenty of humour. From Alex, Jane and Sukie describing their perfect man right down to the small and not so small points through to the closing scenes there is a strong streak of comedy running through it. Much of which is thanks to Jack Nicholson who was born to play the devil in disguise but also because it borders on the surreal. Memorably funny scenes such as Daryl snoring like a wild boar during a concert, his over the top seduction of Alex or his craziness when things don't go his way are just brilliant. As is the surreal tennis match between them all which features Michelle Pfeiffer knocking the ball over the net with her shapely behind.
And talking of shapely behinds there is a sense of semi-eroticism to all of this humour with undertones of deviancy as Daryl goes about seducing these women and participating in an orgy like fantasy with them all. Not that you actually see anything because it's comedy eroticism, well you see Daryl in silk gown slithering over his bed exuding comical sexuality and what has to be said looks like one full on kiss between Nicholson and Pfeiffer. But you're not meant to see anything because of this seduction; semi-eroticism is all about the comedy even the sexual re-awakening of stuffy music teacher Jane which Susan Sarandon plays out to full comical effect.
Much of what makes "The Witches of Eastwick" is in the casting and Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon are ideally cast as these sexy women, making the scenes of lustful deviancy almost believable. I say almost because whilst the characters are played for the most straight there is a sense of irony flourishing through out. When the three of them discuss what credentials their idea man would have including the size of a particular male anatomy it's played straight yet it's a comical scene thanks to the irony in their delivery of the lines. And it goes on throughout with each of them getting their moment to shine as Daryl seduces them.
But to be honest whilst none of them put in a bad performance and neither does Veronica Cartwright as Felicia Alden who ends up on the wrong side of insanity as she ends up the cherry pip vomiting victim of Daryl's wicked games, it is Jack Nicholson who every one remembers "The Witches of Eastwick" for. You could say that Jack Nicholson was born to play the devil with that big sinister smile and ability to arch his eyebrows and as such he is brilliant as Daryl. He may be playing scenes for comedy effect, ratching up the charm and seduction to hilarious levels but at the same time it feels like its Jack playing Jack the ultimate charmer, womanizer and unlikely lover.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Witches of Eastwick" storyline didn't really do anything for me but the performances did. Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon are perfectly cast but it is Jack Nicholson who makes "The Witches of Eastwick" the entertaining movie that it is.