David Beaird's "It Takes Two" from 1988 is an unusually accomplished and knowing little film, enchantingly funny and shrewdly observant at the same time, dealing with real-life man-woman issues.
Set on the eve of a wedding, it deals with what men really want (hot cars and hotter women, and lots of them) and what women want (love and a security that might be restricting). Men here, represented by the groom-to-be, are painted as dreamers, while women, in the form of his sweetheart and future wife, are seen as realists.
It's the battle of the sexes, done in an '80s style (when the film was released) but unpretentious. It has a sweet touch.
As in all romantic comedies, the man and woman here are each outraged by an element in the other's character.
Travis Rogers and Stephi Lawrence have lived in Waxahachie, Texas, all their lives, on their families' respective farms. Travis' family breeds horses and is strictly lower middle-class, while Stephi's dad, "Bull" Lawrence, is a "manure mogul."
These kids, just barely out of high school, are absolutely crazy about each other and, what's more, they were made for each other.
But they see things differently.
Travis has never been to a big city and has never owned anything fine, anything to call his own, and has never been with any other woman except Stephi - and he hasn't really been with her. (They're both virgins.) He has dreams of fancy cars and panting blondes, dreams followed by nightmares of Stephi locked inside his queasy stomach, dressed in her wedding gown, natch, for bad measure.
Stephi is spoiled, a bit self-centered and something of a nag, but (thanks to some three-dimensional playing here) you just know how much she loves Travis and how she only wants to make him happy.
When he announces that he wants to invest most of his hard-earned money in a fancy Tovare, advertised as an American imitation Lamborghini, and that he plans to go to Dallas right before their wedding to buy one, Stephi goes along with him, but only after a few fights.
Their fights are actually a kind of mutual criticism, very realistic, and as most married couples know, they are sometimes the only road to accommodation, torturous but introspective.
So while Stephi prepares for their big, big wedding, which is only 46 hours away, Travis goes to Dallas and is immediately hoodwinked by the salesperson at the Emeralds Motors Auto-Plex, an Oz-like place filled appropriately enough with green neon.
Jonni Tigersmith, his sales clerk, is the kind of woman he saw only in his dreams. She takes him for a ride - in more ways than one.
Although it isn't an action film, men should enjoy "It Takes Two," identifying with Travis' feelings and recognizing both Stephi and Jonni.
It's a male fantasy that turns into a male nightmare that, also, somehow ends, well, kinda dreamy.
I feel that I know these people and, more to the point, I feel that I've discovered some remarkable, attractive new talent.
Well, perhaps, not so new...
George Newbern and Leslie Hope, the stars, are two accomplished players who should have gone further in the 20-plus years since "It Takes Two" was first released. Newbern as Travis is a crackerjack leading man, at turns funny and serious and always willing to expose himself to the audience. His Travis is a fine character study of a young man old enough to grow a mustache but young enough to look silly with one.
But the titanic supporting structure of this movie is his co-star, Leslie Hope (who, back in the day, was soon to be seen in Oliver Stone's "Talk Radio" and with Matt Dillon in "Kansas"). As Stephi, Hope reads dialogue as if she were having a candid conversation with her friends and has a smile to die for. And, in the film's big scene, when Stephi thinks Travis has stood her up at the altar, Hope does a monologue that sells us on her character once and for all. Up until that time, we swing back and forth with Stephi, an incredibly complex character.
And a special note about Kimberly Foster who, as Jonni, is sort of a neo-Kim Novak, a striking blonde with a punky edge, a heart of gold (of course) and, most important, a streak of decency.
"It Takes Two" (titled "My New Car" immediately prior to its release in '88) is complex, too, bittersweet and tangy, with a live-in feel.
Note in Passing: Five years later, in 1993, George Newbern and Leslie Hope would be teamed again, in the nifty Drew Barrymore faux Hitchcock thriller, "Doppelganger," directed by Avi Nesher.