Unconditional Love (2002)

unconditional love

“Julie Andrews is in the cockpit.”

The Scoop: 2002, PG-13 directed by P.J. Hogan and starring Kathy Bates, Rupert Everett, and Meredith Eaton.

Tagline: If love takes no prisoners, somebody forgot to tell them.

Summary Capsule: Solving serial murders with singalongs! Yay!

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Eunice’s rating: You know, I do feel glad when you’re glad.

Eunice’s review: Maybe it’s just me, but it seems it’s getting harder to blindly stumble into a hidden gem of a movie. To unexpectedly find a title that you truly know nothing about and have it knock your socks off. So when it happens, it makes me really happy.

Grace Beasley (Kathy Bates) is a frumpy house wife in Chicago, whose life is about to fall apart. Her husband (Dan Aykroyd) has a midlife crisis and decides to leave her, she realizes her own insecurities have turned her son into a barely functioning phobia circus, and worst of all her singing idol Victor Fox has just been murdered by a serial killer during his visit to Chicago. Her only support in all this is her self confident and very cool daughter in-law Maudey (Meredith Eaton), who also happens to be a dwarf.

Let me stop right here to tell you that this is not a drama. It’s a comedy, or maybe a dark comedy. So don’t check out on me yet. You with me? Okay.

Well Grace gets it into her head that she’s going to attend Victor’s funeral in England. See, when she was younger she had dreams of becoming a singer, but gave up on them instead settling for things in life and living vicariously through Victor. While in England (after one of the best flight scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie) Grace meets Dirk (Rupert Everett), Victor’s “valet.” “Valet” it turns out is code for “gay lover,” and while Victor was never faithful, his loss has still sent Dirk on a grief fueled bender.

In seeing what a mess Dirk is, Grace has found a kindred spirit and purpose. She forcibly puts herself into his life to pull him out of his slump, brings him back to Chicago, and he, Grace, and Maudey take it upon themselves to catch Victor’s killer.

I was channel surfing the first time I saw Unconditional Love, I watched because I’m a fan of both Kathy Bates and Rupert Everett. The write up had it listed as a Drama, Mystery, so imagine my confusion when a window washer randomly throws himself into a window (it means something later, but it’s completely left field the first time you see it).

If I had to describe Unconditional Love –– and I’m not going to do this very well because it’s one of those movies you can’t really just tell people what it is because it’s more than a little odd — it’s like Empire Records or The Goonies for grownups, meets British humor, about grieving and accepting oneself.

What I mean by that (the Goonies/Records comparison) is, Grace’s story is complete escapism. Her entire life is falling apart, with that whole “who am I?” “what am I going to do?” thing going on. So she goes to England where she meets Dirk and they become best friends, she meets Victor’s odious relatives who try to employ Grace into helping them break Victor’s will so they get all the estate instead of Dirk, and then the Scooby Doo-esque killer finding in Chicago’s underground.

There’s also a very surreal quality to the movie. My favorite part has Julie Andrews playing herself and getting a plane full of scared passengers to sing ‘Getting to Know You.’ She then shows up again later and punches somebody at the funeral. Or the fact that several of the characters see and even talk to the dead Victor Fox. And the whole thing ends with the cast singing Barry Manilow’s ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ led by the man who writes the songs that make the whole world sing himself. It’s bizarre, and yet within the universe of the movie makes perfect sense.

The feeling I’m left with when I watch Unconditional Love, is the same one I get when I watch The Muppet Movie. Like I want to spin around in an office chair going “Whee!” And, no, I can’t explain that.

Kathy Bates, Rupert Everett, and Meredith Eaton are perfectly cast. The minor characters are perfectly cast. Kathy Bates shows that she actually has a lovely singing voice. Julie Andrews punches somebody and Kathy rides a bike while towing Rupert on the handlebars.

Be warned though, you will get ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ stuck in your head.

Awkward

Intermisson!

  • I-I want to fly on a plane with Julie Andrews.
  • The Don’t Look Now reference makes me laugh so hard

Groovy Quotes

Wife: Julie Andrews is in the cockpit.
Husband: Thank God.

Grace: That’s Tom Jones.
Nola Fox: Don’t you think I’d know my own brother’s voice?
Waitress: Actually, it’s Tom Jones. I put the CD on myself.
Nola Fox: *slaps waitress* Slut!

Dirk: I don’t believe in unconditional love, I mean, what is it anyway? Cut off my ears, steal my money and I’ll love you anyway?
Grace: Yes, and more.
Dirk: More?
Grace: You don’t have to love me back.

Victor Fox: I have sex with other men, but I sleep with you.

Maudey: Nobody messes with a dwarf in a red raincoat.

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