Born Yesterday (1993)
Born Yesterday (1993)

Genre: Romantic Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: March 26th, 1993 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Luis Mandoki Actors: Melanie Griffith, John Goodman, Don Johnson, Edward Herrmann, Max Perlich, Nora Dunn, Michael Ensign

 


 

C

hicago real estate mogul Harry Brock (John Goodman) arrives in Washington D.C. aboard a private jet with his name engraved on the side. Lawyer Ed Devery (Edward Herrmann) immediately informs him of an interview with reporter Paul Verrall (Don Johnson), who has a following sizable enough to favorably embrace Brock’s business interests. Once upstairs in a lavish suite, Harry starts barking orders, demanding that his every desire is met. And that goes for his girlfriend, Billie Dawn (Melanie Griffith), too, who doesn’t have much to do, save for hanging around and looking pretty.

Billie isn’t very bright, nor does she have a sense of priorities (it takes her an unbearable minute’s time to find her favorite soap opera). But her amiability and sweetness are difficult to mask, even under a substantial layer of stupidity. “Couldn’t we do something? Smarten her up a bit?” And so, Harry decides to hire Paul to “show her the ropes,” to educate her on a few of the basics of politics and society, so that she won’t be an embarrassment – or a liability – to him while they’re in Washington for Brock’s crooked business dealings (concerning Alex Duffee [Benjamin C. Bradlee], the Secretary of the Navy, along with a slew of senators).

“Don’t tell me what to do!” Once again, Brock’s role is irredeemable, though Goodman can’t quite seem to be sincerely aggressive or bitter. Curiously, he does a more convincing job of being in love than Broderick Crawford did in 1950, which doesn’t make the character any more sympathetic, but certainly imparts a greater realism.

Meanwhile, Griffith doesn’t go as overboard as Judy Holliday did in her Academy Award-winning portrayal of the same character, which is actually an appropriate update. Griffith is, not surprisingly, a spectacular casting decision, as her typical screen persona fits perfectly with the Billie Dawn design. She doesn’t have to change anything about her usual performance to persuade as an absolute airhead.

“Even if I am stupid, it hasn’t hurt me none.” Expectedly, the nerdy tutor falls for the seductive imbecile, each learning something about love and intelligence from the other; in a slight deviation, Dawn actually has something to teach Verrall: how to be more confident and outgoing with the opposite sex. Despite some modernizations (and some rather clever double entendres), such as a signature ’90s montage, the story stays entirely recognizable, based on the stage play – and, unavoidably, taking elements from the popular George Cukor film. Cleverly, this latest adaptation has more in common with “Pretty Woman” than “My Fair Lady.”

“People are always pretending to be smarter than they are.” The tone is light and pleasant (earning a PG-rating; it is slightly shocking that maturer content wouldn’t have worked its way into the script, especially when it comes to language), with enough successful humor and romance and table-turning drama to craft an enjoyable bit of entertainment. Since the adherence to the source material is pretty close, there aren’t many surprises (although a singing number is original), but it’s amusing to see a classic story – with classic film sensibilities (even though they don’t always feel as relevant or realistic decades later, particularly when it comes to the conclusion, which is difficult to describe as anything but a letdown) – receive a revisitation for contemporary audiences.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10