Burt and Goldie help this endearing comedy re-define romance.

Because Hollywood isn’t just hell bent on revisiting major classics for financial gain…I mean for the purpose of introducing them to a new generation, it seems they’ve set their sights on minor ones as well. How else can you expect this week’s remake of the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell vehicle Overboard starring Eugenio Debrez and Anna Faris? The pair gender-swap the roles of the original for what looks like (if the lackluster trailer is any indication), a wholly laugh-free time at the movies.

The sole saving grace of Overboard’s existence is that it gives me the perfect excuse for paying tribute to one of Hawn’s less-celebrated classics- the 1982 romantic comedy Best Friends; a charming and thoughtful exercise which hopefully Hollywood will leave firmly alone.

Directed by Norman Jewison and written by Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin (loosely based on their lives), Best Friends centers on Hollywood screenwriting team Richard (Burt Reynolds) and Paula (Goldie Hawn), who enjoy a successful partnership both professionally and personally. The pair are so in sync with one another that they are able to read each other’s moods and thoughts without hesitation. After Richard and Paula make the decision to buy a house together, they end up taking things further by getting married. While they’re both excited about their nuptials, the two begin to discover how little they actually know about each other until they become husband and wife.

The central fascination of Best Friends, not to mention the film’s truest form of commentary, is in observing Richard and Paula’s relationship before marriage. Seeing the rhythm the two share when it comes to their work (agreeing on lines of dialogue and discussing plot points) shows an equality built on mutual respect that’s both sturdy and shared. At the same time, their relationship is one of total honesty. Questions of where they stand romantically and what they each want from their time together are dealt with openly and upfront with an unshakeable security. It’s here where the title earns its significance. So often it has been said that one of the biggest obstacles between men and women is the ability to be genuine friends as well as romantic partners. The film aims to squash that notion; and for the most part does so by showing a man and a woman who are curious about each other’s minds (both instinct and intellect) while also desiring one another as romantic partners.

At the same time, the title also proves that best friends can be something of a crutch once Richard and Paula begin their new relationship after getting married. While the couple spent so much time figuring out who they were with each other and establishing a connection which made them function as a unit, Richard and Paula never really dared to question who they were before they met. In a way, Los Angeles is partly to blame for this. The fact that the two met in a city which allowed them to craft their own identities (which also serves as the basis of their profession) away from their pasts meant that they fell in love with mythologized versions of each other. After marrying, Richard and Paula travel to Buffalo to meet her parents (Jessica Tandy and Bernard Fox) and then off to Virginia to meet his (Audra Lindley and Keenan Wynn). Both visits are chock full of hilarious misunderstandings and fish-out-of-water occurrences which not only cause Richard and Paula to look at each other as vastly different people, but also to experience the realization that time is passing faster than they ever thought it would.

Richard has to be one of Reynolds’s most criminally overlooked performances. The actor proves to be a master at deadpan, drawing almost as many laughs as his co-star, sometimes with even just his nonplussed stare. At the same time, there’s such a tenderness to his work here which rings true, signifying his emotional commitment to the material and giving Best Friends doses of real pathos. Likewise, Hawn scores laugh after laugh as Paula, doing the kind of slapstick and wide-eyed silliness which only she could master. However, much like her male lead, Paula affords the actress a level of sensitivity, soulfulness and maturity which seemed to have alluded her in most of her past roles. As the parents in Best Friends, Tandy, Fox, Lindley and Wynn all have their moments to shine in some great character parts which rise beyond stereotypes for some of the movie’s more telling moments.

The potency of the combined star power from Hawn and Reynolds ensured the film would turn a nice profit at the box office, which it did upon its Christmas 1982 release. At the same time, critics applauded Best Friends for its comment on modern relationships and it’s willingness to explore the mechanics of what makes a marriage work. Awards love came to the film in the form of a Golden Globe nomination for Hawn and an Oscar nod for the movie’s theme song “How Do We Keep the Music Playing,” which immediately took on a life beyond Best Friends and has since been covered by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand.

If Best Friends doesn’t stand out as an instant Goldie classic, it’s only because the actress’s output, while not as vast as that of other contemporaries such as Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep, is chock full of more than a few films considered genuine classics. Before Best Friends came along, the actress could already count Shampoo, Foul Play and Private Benjamin on her list of hits with the aforementioned Overboard, Death Becomes Her and The First Wives Club (itself also currently being remade for TV) eventually to follow. As a fan, perhaps any hesitancy to check out the reworked some of Hawn’s past projects isn’t due to a lack of creativity from Hollywood or the lame scripts used as the basis for them. Instead, it’s a reminder of how much Goldie herself brought to them and the sheer joy radiated whenever she graced the screen. It’s simply a form of magic that can never be remade.

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