Just because cross-dressing worked in “Tootsie,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” it doesn’t mean ir should be tried in more comedy movies. These two movies were the exceptions thanks to solid scripts, and great casting.
But, if a studio decides their new movie just has to have a cross-dressing character, then it better be an amusing character and not one that confuses audiences by the way he acts and looks. That’s the main lesson that 1996’s “The Associate,” failed to follow.
The movie stars Whoopi Goldberg as Laurel Ayres, a brilliant financial analyst who is never taken seriously because she’s a woman. After her colleague cheats her out of a promotion, Ayres decides to start her own financial firm. But when no one will do business with her because she’s a women, Laurel invents a white male partner named Mr. Robert S. Cutty.
Laurel comes up with his name with a little help from a bottle of Cutty Sark. She then created a colorful history for him: cutty he was born on the day of the 1929 stock market crash; he’s dated Barbra Streisand; and he’s reponsible for some of the best financial deals over the last several years. Laurel also makes sure Cutty is always out-of-town when clients demand a meeting.
“The Associate” also features Dianne Wiest (Sally), Tim Daly (Frank), Bebe Neuwirth (Camille), Eli Wallach (Fallon) and Lainie Kazan (Cindy Mason). Now all of this sounds like the making of a good movie doesn’t it? Well, it didn’t exactly work out.
One of the reasons audiences liked both “Tootsie,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” was because when the lead actor put on the dress their new characters were immediately likable. But in “The Associate, Whoopi Goldberg’s Robert S. Cutty is a portly male who looks like a mix between George Washington with a ponytail and a Madame Tussaud statue that’s beginning to melt. More importantly however, Robert Cutty turns out to be a complete bore.
Cutty adds nothing new to the movie, I’d even say he slows it down. The film was moving at a pretty decent pace until Cutty came to life. And all he ends up doing in the movie, is fleeing the Wall Street barracudas and paparazzi who believe Cutty to be the greatest financial wizard in the history of the world. The character isn’t helped by the fact that Whoopi Goldberg barely disguises her voice when she’s under the Cutty’s mask.
The best part of “The Associate” is the film’s supporting cast. The biggest standout is Laurel’s loyal assistant, Sally (Dianne Wiest). She’s really the heart of this movie and she brings some much-needed lightness to the plot. I particularly like the scenes where Wiest and Goldberg try to stage a fiery crash with a skeleton behind the wheel and end up getting arrested for murder on Christmas Eve.
Tim Daly and Bebe Neuwirth also do some good work “The Associate.” Daly is the victim of many of the film’s gags. but he pulls it off well. Bebe Neuwirth is there as eye candy mostly, the scene in the lingerie store is proof of that.
This was a little surprising to see because Neuwirth is multi talented, and she could have done a lot more in this movie. But at least she is responsible for a funny bit featuring Sally Jessy Raphael.
I went to the theater to see the “The Associate” because up to that point I was a fan of Whoopi Goldberg. She and the rest of the cast did what they could, but they were all let down by the script, and poor make up work. The end result is a mess with only a few laughs, and some plot holes that will leave you scratching your head.