Before HARRY POTTER and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and after BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK came out and charmed the pants off moviegoers including me who, when we saw the film in theatres, loved not only the fantasy element, but also the great interplay between the actors.
Loosely based on the John Updike novel of the same name, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK concerns the shenanigans of three housewives, all close with each other, who live in a sleepy New England town and dream of having a man come to their lives. What they don't know is that their empathic desires materialize not a knight in shining armour, but... Jack Nicholson? Surely you jest. Cher, the first to meet him, loathes him -- her verbal assault is something that belongs in an Edward Albee play. But he matches her word for word and bests her. Susan Sarandon, playing completely clumsy and repressed, gets ravaged in a bombastic way that would make any woman go nuts. And Michelle Pfeiffer in her breakout role meets a tender man who wishes he could be a woman.
The key her is not the story: that the Devil has his own designs as Darryl van Horne and that he may have some eventual opposition from the town is predictable -- it's the way Nicholson embodies his role as van Horne. Pacino would do an over-the-top performance in THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE years later; Nicholson prefers to change his demeanor with regards to the women he gets involved in, and his Devil is almost an overgrown boy who just wants to have fun and enjoy life. Seeing him sharing screen time with such different actresses is worth the entire movie -- he oozes chemistry with all of them, he makes you believe he's that charming and sweet or passionate and maybe irrepressibly vulgar, full of his own cat-like sensuality. He's having fun, but making it known it's also not a one-note performance.
Performances are what save this movie from its overblown ending and 80s production values: to watch Veronica Cartwright stealing her scenes, perfectly comfortable in playing these types of roles, go from concerned to completely mad, is a hoot. That she also may be a latent witch... is possible. Cher tackles her role like a total feminist and brings a lot of her own blunt self; Susan Sarandon does wonders to what in her own words was an underwritten part, and Michelle Pfeiffer glows.
Great fun, fantasy at its purest form, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK makes you want to draw a 'D' in the sand and see what happens.