Choose Me

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The difference between a screwball comedy by Howard Hawks or Peter Bogdanovich and Alan Rudolph’s Choose Me (1984) is the difference between serendipity and kismet. In Choose Me the coincidence and happenstance of the screwball comedy genre are rendered as random flukes or some character driven psychosis. Gone is the wonder and fantasy afforded by an unquestioning faith in and need for fate or divine intervention. Where screwball comedies offered an escape for audiences before all else Choose Me simply reflects and pinpoints the trappings of this beloved genre in our everyday lives.

Rudolph’s film charts the intersections of different lives who all enter into the orbit of Eve’s Lounge. What proceeds is a kind of process of elimination as different encounters unmask different aspects of characters and realizations prompt a change of course. Much like Robert Altman, Rudolph appears to perceive these encounters more as miniature performances where a man and a woman take turns in the roles of performer and audience. The title itself, Choose Me, reflects this notion that, in a way, every human encounter in life is an audition of sorts.

Choose Me is a complex script full of wonderful little touches (such as the movie posters that loudly broadcast the scene’s subtext) that is elevated by the collective strength of Rudolph’s ensemble cast. Geneviève Bujold, Keith Carradine and Lesley Ann Warren are all quite remarkable in their roles; they embrace the strange and awkward with a reckless abandon that makes their characters feel entirely true to life. It’s so incredibly rare to see a film where the whole ensemble, though especially the three leads, all share a unique and natural chemistry.

What’s really interesting is that despite all of this Choose Me isn’t antithetical or cynical about the screwball comedy genre. Rudolph clearly has not intention of throwing the callousness of reality into the face of screwball’s gentle fantasy. What Choose Me does is locate the screwball comedy in something much more life like. For Rudolph and the characters in Choose Me the screwball comedy of old is what dreams are made of.