Monday, June 13, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Tequila Sunrise (1988) - Atypical Love "Square"

[Quick Summary: A narcotics detective tries to pin his childhood friend, a smooth, personable drug dealer.]

Like Chinatown, this story defies easy description.

It twists and turns on itself, ravels and unravels. It's complicated.

Suffice it to say:
- Frescia and McKussic grew up together. They still like each other.
- Frescia is a narcotics cop now. McKussic may/may not be retired from dealing drug.
- Frescia's superior is pressuring him to use McKussic to find kingpin Carlos.
- Frescia does not want to involve McKussic.
- McKussic has a crush on Jo Ann, the restaurant manager, but is shy.
- Frescia meets Jo Ann and has no problem asking her out.

For 2/3 of the script,* I liked the dynamic of two friends pursuing one woman, but this isn't a typical love triangle.  Crime is added as the 4th person, i.e., a love "square."

In the scene below, I like how that 4th addition make a nice seduction even better.

But it's complicated too: Frescia is trying to flirt with Jo Ann, protect her from McKussic, protect McKussic from the police, yet nail McKussic if he's still dealing. 

"ex. "FULL SHOT - BOOTH - JO ANN AND FRESCIA

seated while a waiter pours champagne. It is Jo Ann who samples it and nods approval, with Frescia watching.

FRESCIA: Arturo's looking at me and I don't think he approves.
JO ANN: Of what?
FRESCIA: The way I look at you -- (quickly) -- It's quite an experience watching you work.
JO ANN: Oh?
FRESCIA: Like you're in a play and everything's on cue. You're kind of letter perfect.
JO ANN: --Thank you.
FRESCIA: Tell me, do you ever flub your lines?

Jo Ann sets down her champagne glass. Pleasantly:

JO ANN: --Is that a polite way of suggesting I lack spontaneity?
FRESCIA: No --I enjoy the performance.
JO ANN: (amused) --But you'd like to see me flustered.
FRESCIA: Seen Mac lately? ... Mr. McKussic is going to ask you to cater a party.
JO ANN: That is our business.

The salad tray rolls up. The waiter hovers over them, mixing the caesars.

FRESCIA: (reluctantly) --Well, we think it involves his business.
JO ANN: Are you suggesting I refuse because it's a party for drug dealers?
FRESCIA: (embarassed) No! (after the waiter leaves) ...It's just if it's for this one particular guy, he's particularly unpleasant.
JO ANN: You mean violent?
FRESCIA: Oh, I doubt that. Unless of course he doesn't like your lasagne.
JO ANN: (amused) I'm sure Mr. McKussic's friend will be very well behaved.
FRESCIA: Why would you call him a friend?
JO ANN: --It's a figure of speech, Lieutenant. Who else would Mr. McKussic give a party for?
FRESCIA: A business associate. As it happens, Carlos and Mac are friends.
JO ANN: --And you and Mac are friends --
FRESCIA: --That's right --
JO ANN: --Well, it sounds like a pretty friendly situation all around --
FRESCIA: Not exactly. Mac and I went to school together in Redondo Beach and played water polo, Carlos and Mac went to ail together in Mexico and played horseshoes and ping-pong. Nobody knows Carlos. Nobody even knows what Carlos looks like but Mac --

Jo Ann carefully places her salad fork prongs down on the plate.

JO ANN:  Then you want to know what Carlos looks like and you're asking me to spy on a customer so you can find out --
FRESCIA: (exasperated) Absolutely not!...Look, let's not discuss my business, his business, or your business, okay?
JO ANN: (pleased with herself) That leaves us with nothing to talk about.
FRESCIA: -- Let's eat."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Towne really is a master of twisting the expected. I expected a love triangle, but not a love square.

Tequila Sunrise (1988)
Written & directed by Robert Towne

* I didn't like the last third nearly as much.

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