Friday, November 23, 2007
The second film in my Lucille Ball Double Feature is STONE PILLOW, which I like to call WHATEVER HAPPENED TO AUNTIE MAME?
This 1985 CBS TV-movie was Lucy's big attempt at being taken seriously. Following in the fottsteps of Carol Burnett in FRIENDLY FIRE and Farah Fawcett in THE BURNING BED, America's sweetheart decided to play a cranky bag lady in a "gritty" (for network TV) expose of the homeless problem in America.
The story opens on the mean streets of New York City, where we see a pile of black garbage bags. Under that pile is Lucy! Baggy eyed and dressed in many layers of tattered clothes, this is a far cry from the soft-focus of MAME. But yet, as soon as she speaks - it's the same old Lucy we've seen everywhere else, only this time there's no Ethel Mertz or Mr. Mooney to bail her out. We learn that her name is Flora, and she's the neighborhood's favorite lovable bag lady - like a stray dog that everybody pets and feeds but doesn't want to take in because she may have fleas.
After crawling out of the garbage, Flora parks her shopping cart and proceeds to wash her face with a hose. For some reason I'm reminded of the old Harpo Marx mirror gag.
Next we meet, Carrie played by Daphne Zuniga, after THE SURE THING but before SPACEBALLS and MELROSE PLACE. Carrie works at a women's shelter where someone has broken in and stolen supplies. I think it was Carrie's fault. Her boss tells her that she needs to see what it like out there on the streets. I don't think he means literally. I could be wrong.
Meanwhile, Lucy brushes her teeth and hair (good grooming never hurt anyone!) and a beat cop brings her an old sandwich. He also tells her about some drugged up kids who killed another old lady. She ain't scared of no kids!
Lucy settles down on her cardboard box to read yesterday's paper. Then a fruit truck shows up and Lucy helps herself to some damaged veggies - and in an obvious homage to ROCKY and possibly Edith Massey - eats a raw egg. Ewwww!
Meanwhile, Carrie tries to chat with a homeless guy who offers her a sip from his bottle of booze. Some teen-age toughs try to steal Lucy's crap - then she crosses the street with her cart and almost gets hit by a car because she spots Carrie feeding pigeons with a discarded bun that she had her eye on. The tough guys then mug Carrie in broad daylight and steal some crap from Lucy's cart. Where's that damn cop now that we need him?
Lucy thinks Carrie is a runaway - she tells her to get herself to a shelter-pronto! Lucy then yammers on about somebody named "Sonny" - possibly her son? I'm just guessing.
Next the guy who played the fake "Michael Garrison/Hudson" on ANOTHER WORLD attempts to buy Lucy some coffee while she attempts to take a poop in a stairwell. While trying to pinch one out, another homeless woman tries to steal her shopping cart - but Carrie steps in and foils the robbery. What a team these two make!
Lucy finds half a roast beef sandwich and slice of melon in the trash and offers it to Carrie. Once again Lucy tells her that she needs to go to the shelter, but Carrie's just not having it. After they share a dinner, Lucy drinks vinegar "to toughen her feet" - she also spouts out some sage nutritional information about things like raw vegetables and iodine. Luckily she doesn't sing.
One of the produce store guys warns Carrie that some girl was raped in the alley, prompting Lucy to teach Carrie how to act "crazy" to defend herself. Oh that Lucy, gotta love her! I'm guessing it's about 10PM at this point. Then they have a heart-to-heart and Lucy tells Carrie all about her farm where she used to grow her own veggies. Lucy tries to leave Carrie behind in the Port Authority, but they both end up getting kicked out by a mean guard. Must be like 11PM now, right?
The long night continues as they attempt to get some money by recycling some soda cans, but the supermarket worker comes on to Carrie and she runs out without the money or the cans. Lucy calls her dumb (or was that me?) and Carrie breaks down, crying "Life is so hard, I had no idea!!!" Is it midnight yet?
Then they settle in a stairway for the night (so they think) and Lucy takes out her teddy bear. And soon a stray dog joins them. Awww...they have become a little family. But then a another mean cop wakes them all up - forcing them to head for Grand Central terminal. Once there, Lucy shows Carrie her son Sonny's baby spoon, and tells the story of how she ended up on the streets. Turns out Sonny got sick then she got sick and was hospitalized. When she got out her husband and son were gone. She tried to find them to no avail. Then she tried working as a housekeeper, but that didn't work out. After trying to live on welfare she ended up "outside" without an address to get her checks mailed. Then she gives Carrie the spoon because she kinda looks like Sonny. Huh? I'm guess it's around 1AM now. It's gotta be.
Suddenly, Carrie is sick to her stomach (from Lucy's terrible "cooking"). Lucy goes to get her medicine and while she is gone a guy named Max turns up - and he begins spouting statistics about homeless people and tells Carrie the backstories of some of the people who live in the Underground. He thinks Carrie's a reporter or something - especially when she freaks out over the lice in her hair. 2AM-ish now, you think?
Meanwhile, Lucy sips tea with Mr. B, the pharmacist, who is being evicted cause he lost his lease. What time of the night is it exactly ??? Why is Mr. B. still working at this late hour? It must be like 3AM by now...
Back in the Underground, two sleazy guys try to rape Carrie despite her lice and her telling them she's sick and contagious. A nice, helpful African American woman saves her and cleans her up while telling her tragic backstory. Lucy returns with pills for Carrie, but Max tells her that Carrie is not what she appeared to be. 4AM...I'm just guessing.
Lucy heads to the Women's Shelter in hopes of finding Carrie there - she does - only Carrie is all cleaned up (and de-liced?) and working!!! Huh? Is this REALLY all one night??? Come on...
Lucy freaks out over Carrie's manipulation and gets separated from her shopping cart and is put on a bus to Brooklyn with a bunch of other (mostly crazy) homeless women. Carrie's boss reads her the riot act as Lucy continues to freak out on the bus. The Brooklyn shelter woman gives her money for carfare back to Manhattan - but a gang of metalheads and a rat make her change her mind. She'll stay for just one night. Wait - it's still night?
Lucy showers and tries to sleep, but a cat fight erupts - and Lucy tries to intervene and is banished to the TV room where other homeless women are watching DYNASTY - at 5AM??? One of the women freaks out and smashes the TV - of course Lucy gets blamed. Oh sweet Jesus - can things get any worse for Lucy???
After Carrie calls the shelter and is treated poorly - her coworker Anna Maria Horsford (of AMEN fame) tells her that she can help Lucy get off the streets. Lucy gets her carfare and heads out of the Brooklyn shelter. She thinks she see Sonny, but it's actually a pile of rats. After yelling like Lucy Ricardo, she finds shelter in a dark, abandoned building. She then finds a toy horse, leans against a wall and slowly sinks to the floor. She then flashes back to her previous life: her husband, her home, her son and her younger self. This part was actually effective and quite moving - either that or my cough medicine kicked in.
Well, it's FINALLY morning - and after the longest night ever recorded - Lucy awakens! Carrie calls the Brooklyn shelter again - and again gets no help. She then heads to all Lucy's favorite haunts but can't find her anywhere - but one of the Underground women from last night leads her to Max! Meanwhile, Lucy eats cat food.
Max turns out to be "public accountant" who helps homeless people by doing pro bono work for them. He's also befriended them because they are just like us - except homeless. Max leads Carrie to Lucy - but it might be too late - Max declares her dead. But it's NOT her - the real Lucy then shows up and the nice cop gives her another stale sandwich! Carrie gives Lucy back her cart - then Lucy almost gets hit by a car AGAIN!
Carrie tells Lucy she wants to help her - she wants to give her a REAL home again - but Lucy says NO! Carrie has friends who will rent a guest house with a garden to Lucy (I hope it's not those Upsons!). Carrie wants to repay Lucy for taking care of her - but Lucy says NO! Then Carrie gives Lucy back the spoon.
THEN Lucy changes her mind and chases after Carrie. Over the end credits, we see Lucy driven to her new home - and the dirt patch where she can grow her vegetable garden - and fertilize it with her own poop!
This movie felt twice as long as MAME - like an entire season of 24 all at once - and had so many "Huh?" moments, my brain was numb afterwards. I guess it was a brave choice for Lucy - but torture for us viewers. To erase the image of Flora from people minds, Lucy later returned to TV comedy in LIFE WITH LUCY. Wish THAT was on dvd!
7 outta 10 "Huhs?" because Lucy poops.