Truth be told, a traditional Late to the Party this was not. It wasn’t that I’d never seen The Fly, only that after the passage of more than a decade, I simply hadn’t the faintest recollection of David Cronenberg’s hit save the general plot or that it starred Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.
Beyond that (and Patti Pauley’s eloquent love letter for the film’s 30th anniversary), however, I went into The Fly with fresh eyes, and can say that what I enjoyed most was its simplicity. Cronenberg focused on the characters rather than spectacular feats made possible by Goldblum’s new “spidey senses,” a decision which, for my money, made a ridiculous premise work.
For those who don’t know, Goldblum played Seth Brundle, a brilliant yet reclusive scientist on the verge of perfecting teleportation. Brundle meets journalist Veronica Quaife (Davis) and the story goes from Quaife believing Brundle to be a flake to wanting to break the story of a lifetime to falling for the quirky expert. Enter the literal fly in the ointment and Brundle discovers that he had been genetically fused with a fly which happened to land in the telepod during an experiment and you have the catalyst for the film.
Goldblum was absolutely brilliant as Brundle. Let’s be honest, who can pull off eagerly energetic while socially awkward better than Jeff Goldblum?
Rest assured, a character such as Brundle is not an easy one to pull off. That said, Goldblum nailed the oddball aspect of Brundle’s pre-fly infestation personality, but had the dramatic chops to convince as the aggressive and impatient “Dr.-Ian-Malcolm-on-crack” post-metamorphosis. Goldblum possessed the innocent, inquisitive charm of magician David Copperfield (check the hair and you’ll be sure to agree), but the nature of a character searching for answers required an actor who was incapable of speaking without thinking. Name an actor more adept at appearing to have had his lines pop into his head seconds before he blurts them and I’ll show you a liar.
The chemistry between Goldblum and Davis was undeniable. The intellectual and playful banter and staging of their own fusion was paced seamlessly, and thanks to the aforementioned fleshing out of their respective characters, plausibly.
And thank whatever God you pray to Cronenberg was unable to utilize CGI for The Fly because to an old schooler like me, practical effects will always win the day. The make-up and effects were minimalist and when teamed with the story and performances of Goldblum and Davis, allowed The Fly to remain a horror film with heart rather than teetering into a cheesy tale that didn’t know when to quit.
At its essence the film documents the slow but steady destruction of both characters. Goldblum psychologically and physically and Davis emotionally. Davis matches Goldblum’s skill throughout as a woman who find herself torn between saving the man she loves and fear for her own safety. Again, the pacing is spot on because neither Goldblum nor Davis slide too far too soon. Instead, they deteriorate progressively, and what’s more, believably until each reaches a point of no return.
In the middle is Stathis Borans (John Getz), Davis’ ex-boyfriend as well as editor of her magazine. Though he plays the role of jilted and jealous douche bag to perfection, Getz’s arc is an odd one because he ends up the hero of the film. Piggish advances and the type of sexually harassing power plays that you read about are replaced with genuine concern and finally, the resolve necessary to do what must be done.
The Fly is a movie to savor as it unfolds. There was no need to fill in blanks that were best left to the imagination, and I cannot bestow enough praise upon Cronenberg that the flick ended exactly when it should have.
Along the way, one of my favorite Goldblum deliveries made an appearance and I can guarantee I’ll be actively looking to drop “You got it, alright. You just can’t handle it” at my first opportunity. Not to mention a baboon, gymnastics routine, the mouthwatering combination of chocolate and scotch, a War Games moment and a larvae nightmare.
With smatterings of horror, drama and humor, The Fly offers a little something for everyone and is damn fun to watch.
Oh, and one final thought before signing off: The Fly was a remake.
The original was released in 1958. Cronenberg’s version was a re-imagining. Much like John Carpenter’s The Thing. And Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead. So do me a favor, keep that in mind before pontificating about the sanctity of classics. Not all remakes turn out, but once in a while, new artists pick up the ideas of others and pull it off.
Be sure to check back for next week’s Late to the Party when we drop a mystery flick on ya.