Silver Screenshots: 'The Witches of Eastwick' (1987)
Silver Screenshots is an ongoing series that celebrates the aesthetics of film and TV.
I am so disappointed in myself. A pastel-colored, coven-oriented comedy starring three literal icons has existed since the 1980s, patiently waiting for me to stumble upon it, and it took me 24 whole years to get around to it? WTF have I been doing my entire life?!
If you have yet to discover this gem, The Witches of Eastwick follows three friends from a New England town who discover they're, well, witches and enter into a polyamorous relationship with the devil himself. The plot is a little bit of a mess, but boy, is it is a HOT mess. For evidence, please consider the following shot:
That would be, from L to R, Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher, and Susan Sarandon.
It's okay if you need a minute.
This movie is really kind of brilliant, because in addition to featuring three incredible actresses in their primes, it effortlessly marries reality and fantasy in ways that are satisfying and shocking. Take the scene where the three witches sit around a kitchen table, eating Cheez-Whiz and drinking martinis while gossiping frankly about their sexual fantasies. Or when Jack Nicholson (as Daryl Van Horne, a.k.a. the devil) wriggles around on a silk duvet and literally asks Cher, "Wanna fuck?"
It made me realize that R-rated fantasy films— especially ones that really commit to both the sexual and magical elements of the plot—are few and far between. And also, that this is truly my ideal genre of movie.
The way Witches weaves in feminist themes (sexual repression, emotional abuse, even chronic pain) shouldn't be overlooked, either. It's definitely not what you would call radical, but the dialogue is clever, biting, and pretty on point even three decades after its release. There are overtly empowering moments, such as when the women band together to defeat Daryl or when Cher reads him for absolute filth, but I was also surprised by smaller details, like the motives of a crazy, Bible-thumping character named Felicia.
It's clear from the start that Felicia is unhinged, but part of her mania (hysteria?) stems from the fact that she thinks Jack Nicholson is bad news. And guess what? She's 100% right. He's a massive fuckboy, and also, you know, THE LITERAL DEVIL. The women's polyamorous triad with him is antithetical to Felicia's fanatical Christian beliefs, but her overarching desire is actually to warn them of danger and get them away from him. In this movie, women always have other women's backs.
There were other small details I might be reading too much into (I was an English major, so this is inevitable). At one point, Susan Sarandon's character Jane falls off a balcony and hurtles towards a marble floor. "Jane, laugh!" screams Pfeiffer. Sarandon forces out a giggle and she freezes inches off the floor. This might be a stretch, but I thought this acted as a pretty apt metaphor for laughter and levity as a coping mechanism in women's lives; a means of keeping afloat in dire times. IDK.
The takedown of Nicholson's misogynist, gaslighting, emotionally manipulative villain is also especially satisfying in the year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen. At one point, he asks a horrified congregation: "Women—a mistake? Or did God do it to us on purpose? Because if so, maybe we can still fix it."
Needless to say, this caricature of a raging sexist and his ultimate defeat feel especially timely and cathartic. In the face of an administration that is putting more effort into limiting access to birth control and abortion than providing aid to hurricane victims, I'm going to start saying Cher's verbal takedown of Nicholson like a prayer every night:
Scroll down for more iconic shots from my new favorite witchy film (sorry, The Craft):
One final note — Nicholson/Daryl's defeat at the end is one of the strangest, campiest, and straight up weird moments in the entire movie. Basically, he transforms in a massive, naked, Gollum-like creature before they throw his voodoo doll into a fire. The monster then shrinks down to THIS:
WHAT IS THIS. He looks like a mandrake from Harry Potter crossed with Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors crossed with The Arm from Twin Peaks. This is some straight up Black Lodge, David Lynch bizarro experimental special effects shit. It was truly so weird that I laughed out loud. Look at this smug little turnip face. Wow. I'm out.
All photos are courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment.