Trouble in Paradise

"You have the most amazing weather here," she says. "A minute ago it was raining. Now it's clear."
More blinding than clear, actually. The sun is bouncing diamonds of light off the hood of my powder-blue Mustang. We've got the windows open. Radio blaring. Can't put the top down, though. That damn chopper the Enquirer chartered is still following us. Been on our tail ever since we backed out of my garage.

We're headed for the airport. Julia has to fly back to London where she's working on a new film, Mary Reilly. She plays a chambermaid; John Malkovich is Dr. Jekyll. I try to talk her out of returning A Jules (she calls me T) has worked hard to be taken seriously as an actress. Malkovich is one of those heavy, heavy dudes who can make Streep look bimboesque by comparison. Jules won't hear of it. Backing down from a challenge is not this filly's style.

"I have to do it," she insists. She turns the tables on me, begging me to go to London with her. I demur, making up some nonsense about New Times needing me here. Besides, I reason, it's been hard enough dodging the paparazzi all weekend. We'd be sitting ducks for the Brit tabloids if I got on that plane with her. The whine of jet engines would be drowned out by the clicking of cameras when we disembarked at Heathrow. The last thing she needs after the Ethan Hawke fiasco is another Mystery Man in her life. After all, Lyle's my friend. I still haven't figured out how much, if anything, I want her to tell him. I try to change the subject by talking about her current release, I Love Trouble, which I thought was a total waste of her time and talent.

"Look, Jules, this is one time when the critics are right," I tell her softly. "They say there's no chemistry between you and Nolte. It's true. The man's got the sex appeal of a drooling bulldog. Look what he did for I'll Do Anything. He did nothing. And the timing is bad. People are sick of half-baked, warmed-over potboilers with cliched characters, leaden dialogue, and cockamamie plots. Especially when they're written by a pair of hacks like Nancy and Chuck (Meyers and Shyer, by the way, the writing-directing-producing tandem responsible for such slick, sentimental, sit-com pap as Father of the Bride, Baby Boom, and Private Benjamin).

"I mean, they're nice people, they have a nice relationship, I wish their romance well, but they write drivel. And the last thing the world needs is yet another newspaper movie with heroic, larger-than-life reporters risking life and limb to outscoop each other. And set in Chicago to boot! Didn't they see The Paper, for God's sake?"

Julia rolls her eyes. She isn't taking this very well. I know I'm on treacherous footing. We're probably headed for an argument. But at least she's not begging me to go with her.

"Are you through?" she asks, a trace of irritation evident in her voice.
"No, as a matter of fact, I'm not," I tell her.
I'm on a roll.

"The Pelican Brief should have been a loser too, but there were a lot of special circumstances that contributed to its popularity. The curiosity factor was through the roof. You were making your big comeback after the bustup with Kiefer and the fling with Jason and a two-year absence from the screen. Everybody was pulling for America's sweetheart. And John Grisham is huge. The guy signs his name to the telephone book, ten million fans will buy tickets to see it. And Denzel Washington is a good-looking man who can also act, although perhaps out of deference to your rustiness he chose not to for that picture. So even though both movies suck, The Pelican Brief was a sure thing at the box office.

"But I Love Trouble smells like a sterile, prepackaged, marketing ploy of a movie banking on Nolte's and your limited charms to carry it. Let's face it, this is no His Girl Friday we're dealing with. Even if you like Nolte, he's a far cry from Cary Grant. Meyers and Shyer couldn't hold a candle to Ben Hecht, Chuck Lederer, and Howard Hawks. And baby, you're beautiful, but as an actress you're no Rosalind Russell."

That does it. I've crossed the line. I've disparaged her talents as a thespian. She flashes me that hurt-angry-indignant look, the one she froze Richard Gere with in Pretty Woman. The lips lock into a pout. The jaw sets. The mahogany eyes coruscate rage.

Sporadic raindrops speckle the windshield. I hadn't even noticed the storm clouds coming. It's amazing how quickly our weather can turn.

 
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