|The Cast of
|Trisha Rawlings (Lily Tomlin). Rich, middle-aged Beverly Hills
socialite with an icy demeanor who inexplicably falls for a homeless, drug-pushing street kid named Strip.|
|Strip (John Travolta). A homeless, drug-pushing
street kid who inexplicably falls for a rich, middle-aged Beverly Hills socialite with an icy demeanor named Trisha Rawlings.|
|Naomi (Andra Akers). Trish's haughty, rich best friend. Really,
there's not much more to be said about her.|
|Dan Santini (James Luisi). I was never really
sure who this guy was, or what he was doing in this movie, but he's
Dan Santini, for God's sake!.|
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Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought it would be a good idea to journey
outside of the realm of B-movie and genre pictures for this, the Agony Booth's very first
chick flick. While I generally avoid chick flicks, I can at least admit there are a handful
that work on some level (When Harry Met Sally, The Tao of Steve) and are thus
This film, however, doesn't work on any level, and upon release it quickly found
its way onto many critics' lists of all-time worst movies. And the vast majority of the blame
for this lies squarely on the shoulders of its two stars, Lily Tomlin and John Travolta.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a famous actor with as much of a
schizophrenic career as John Travolta. After bit parts in horror films like Carrie and The Devil's
Rain, he eventually shot to fame as Vinnie Barbarino on the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.
Being the only actor on that show who didn't look like he walked straight out of an R. Crumb
comic strip, Travolta was the natural choice to become a breakout star and Tiger Beat pinup.
It wasn't long before Paramount, the studio that produced Kotter, was
eager to put their budding young star in his first starring role in a major motion picture.
The role they originally had in mind was that of Danny
Zuko in their big budget adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease. When that picture was
temporarily sidelined, Travolta was instead rushed into a seemingly tiny picture about the New York disco
To Paramount's surprise, Saturday Night Fever grossed tons of money and even
spawned the biggest-selling movie soundtrack of all time. And when Grease was finally released,
it too achieved blockbuster success and a chart-topping soundtrack. In less
than two years' time, Travolta went from ensemble player on a sitcom to a superstar with two huge movies,
a hit single ("You're the One that I Want"), and even an Oscar nomination
for his performance as Tony Manero in Fever.
Travolta and Tomlin do publicity for
Moment by Moment. And trust me, you don't want to know where her hand is.
After this much success, selecting a follow-up project would be a daunting
task for any actor. It's likely that any project Travolta signed onto would have been looked at
as something of a failure by comparison. Unfortunately, he signed onto a movie that looks like a
failure compared to nearly anything you've ever seen in your life. He decided to star in Moment by
The tarnish would never really come off of Travolta's career after this movie. Though he
made some respectable films in the 80's, his superstar status quickly deteriorated.
Before long, he would end up playing second fiddle to a baby and a Bruce
Willis voiceover in the brain-dead Look Who's Talking series. While these films may have allowed
him to continue to pay the bills, Travolta was all but written off in the minds of critics and audiences
Amazingly, however, Travolta pulled off one of the most inspiring comebacks
in Hollywood history. He took a salary cut and appeared in Quentin Tarantino's low budget independent film Pulp Fiction in 1994,
and the gamble paid off in spades. Travolta's career was revitalized, Hollywood welcomed him back with open
arms, and he ended up securing his second Oscar nomination.
Since then, Travolta's gone
on to make some good films (Primary Colors, Get Shorty), but mostly blah films (A Civil Action,
The General's Daughter, Michael, et al, ad nausea),
but what most defines his post-Pulp career was his decision to harness all the goodwill audiences
had granted him during his comeback and parlay that into making a movie that nobody other than
John Travolta ever wanted to see: A disastrous adaptation of a godwaful sci-fi novel by Church of
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
It's been just three scant years since Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000
was released, and already it's secured a place as one of the biggest artistic, critical and financial disasters
in motion picture history, ranking right up there with megabombs like
Heaven's Gate, Ishtar, and Waterworld.
The world may never know exactly why Travolta continually sabotages his
own career at key moments. One thing we do know is that Battlefield Earth was made primarily because of Travolta's
allegiance to the cult known as the Church of Scientology.
And as it so happens, one can also assume that Scientology played a major role in him signing on to
do Moment by Moment back in 1978. But more on that later.
The most Travolta has ever admitted publicly about why he wanted to make this
movie is that he wanted to work with Lily Tomlin. Tomlin is a
gifted comic actress who first made her mark on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In with famous
characters like Ernestine the switchboard operator and Edith Ann the precocious six year old.
After garnering her own Oscar nomination for Nashville (she's been a regular player in
Robert Altman films ever since), she went on to box-office smashes like All of Me and Nine
to Five. And certainly not least, she would later win a Tony award for her one-woman Broadway show
The Search for Signs of Inteligent Life in the Universe.
So Travolta wasn't way off-base for wanting to work with Tomlin in 1978,
and I'm sure a solid comedy would have worked in both their favors. Unbelievably, what they
made instead was a drippy, mawkish, supposedly romantic drama where the two played a bizarrely
role-reversed May-December couple. For some reason, Travolta took on the role that would
usually be reserved for a young starlet, and Tomlin even ended up lying on top of him in the
Moment by Moment was written and directed by Jane Wagner, who also
scripted Lily Tomlin's other big disaster, The Incredible Shrinking Woman (best known as Joel
Schumacher's directorial debut). Recently, it's become known that Wagner is actually Tomlin's
lesbian partner, and has been for over thirty years. You could take this revelation on its own to explain the
utter lack of chemistry between Tomlin and Travolta in this movie, but then you'd be missing out
on half the story.
It's long been rumored that Travolta himself had a succession of homosexual
relationships before he joined the Church of Scientology. Apparently, part of the fun activities of
the cult is using various brainwashing techniques to "re-orient" the sexuality of its followers. One might
wonder if Moment was deliberately selected by Travolta's "handlers" as a way of reaffirming his
hetero status. If so, they couldn't have picked a worse film, as it ends up having almost the exact opposite
A publicity still from the hot tub scene in
Moment by Moment. All those who see the Hot Tub Scene will have a multitude of
disturbing images etched into their brains until they die.
But even if you forget the stuff people couldn't have known about when this
movie was made, it's still the ideal recipient for something I like to call
the What The Hell Were They Thinking
Award, which it proudly shares with fellow Agony Booth subject Night of the Lepus.
some terrible films which could have possibly ended up good, or at least entertaining if things had
been done right. But just like the makers of Lepus should have realized that
there was no earthly way to make a genuinely scary film about giant killer bunny rabbits,
someone, somewhere, should have realized that a romance between Lily Tomlin and John Travolta could
have never worked, in any way, under any circumstances. Forget the utter lack of chemistry: The two could
have just as easily been playing mother and son, with their identical dark hair and shaggy hairdos.
To be honest, the whole thing feels like we're watching an incestuous relationship, so
in this review, we're definitely in for a rough ride that will separate the strong of stomach from
the weak of heart. Remember, you have been warned.
The movie opens on Lily Tomlin in the role of Trisha Rawlings, as she
strolls down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. We know it's Rodeo Drive because the
"Rodeo Drive" street sign is momentarily superimposed over her. Several other images fade in
over Trisha, revealing the storefront signs of several upscale retailers like "Gucci", "bijan",
"Hermes Paris", "Rei", etc. This is all accompanied by cheesy sax-heavy music left over from later
seasons of The Love Boat.
She continues to walk and it becomes increasingly obvious that Lily
Tomlin's not wearing a bra. Well, you gotta admire this movie's chutzpah to start repulsing us
from the very first frame.
If this is supposed to be subliminal advertising,
I think the filmmakers are not quite grasping the concept.
Then John Travolta walks into view, playing a character by the name of
"Strip", and yes, you read that right. Strip sees a sign flashing "Don't Walk" and sprints across the
street. Perhaps this is an allegory for his entire film career, only in that version, the sign would be
flashing "Don't Act".
He runs into a Schwab's pharmacy, and inside, he finds Trisha there, standing at the counter. She's telling the
pharmacist that she really needs sleeping pills because she's going to be out at the beach for "a
while". Strip comes up behind her, barges right into their conversation, and asks the pharmacist if
somebody named "Greg" is there. The pharmacist just gives him a snooty look, because that's
what people in Beverly Hills do, but Strip keeps going. He explains that he was supposed to meet
up with Greg "last night, and he didn't show up!"
Trish gets all indignant that Strip's horning in on her private sleeping pill
discussion, and reminds the pharmacist that she was there first. So the pharmacist just brushes
Strip off, and tells Trish to call her doctor if she wants more sleeping pills. Amazingly, he says this
with Strip still standing there within earshot [!]. Don't they have costumer confidentiality policies
at pharmacies? Anyway, here we get our first close-up of Tomlin, revealing the first of many
blank, expressionless looks she'll be wearing throughout the film. In addition, we quickly realize
that she's made up like an embalmed corpse.
For those of you who are confused, Trish is the one on the left.
Meanwhile, Strip is looking all sad and doe-eyed. Trish takes off, and the
pharmacist finally acknowledges Strip's existence. The pharmacist yells that his friend Greg was
fired, adding, "I don't suppose it'll come as a surprise if I tell you that we caught him with his
hands in the cookie jar!" Because, I guess, Greg is a guy who really loves cookies.
Strip acts all surprised, and the pharmacist tells him it's "in the hands of
the Law now!" Strip yells at him, outraged, and the pharmacist begs him to quiet down.
"People are beginning to stare, please!" Because, you know, this is the uptight, snooty section of
town, and manners are incredibly important. Strip replies, "Well, that's what happens when...
when you have guilt, you feel like people are staring at you!" Ouch! That's gonna leave a mark.
Strip goes to leave, but stands at the door and shouts, "Well, you know
what? They are staring at you!" That's the way to stick it to the Man, Strip! The clerk just looks
around nervously and bugs his eyes out. Everyone else looks around bug-eyed, too as Strip,
Impulsive Man of Action, storms out of Schwab's. Strip continues strutting down the sidewalk, and
you can tell by the way he uses his walk, he's a woman's man, no time to talk.
Strip spots Trish across the street and bolts across traffic to catch up with
her. She enters a swanky housewares store to pick up a "wine chiller" that she ordered, since she's
all hoity-toity and everything. The clerk asks her if she needs any more blades for her Cuisinart,
and she responds that she has "so many blades now, I don't know what to do with them..."
She trails off when she sports Strip standing by the door. He walks over,
saying that he saw her in Schwab's and just now remembered exactly where he knows her from.
Since icily brushing him off worked so well before, Trish gives it another try, but he soldiers on. He
says he did valet parking for her at a party she had at her beach house. In response, Trish simply
thanks the clerk and leaves. Hey, have you've gotten what a haughty, rich Ice Princess she's
supposed to be? If not, there's going to be about three dozen more Icy Stares over the course of
this movie to help you out.
The clerk says some things to Strip to prove that he's also a member of the
Beverly Hills Snooty Business Owners Association. Strip just leaves and chases after Trish. He
catches up to her and says he's only being friendly because of some unspecified act of kindness
she did for him at the beach party. He even compliments her on being "so mellow that night" and
not "all standoffish like you are now". Trish, true to form, remains completely silent until they
reach her car.
She gets in and Strip says he just wants to thank her for "coming to my
rescue that night". She, of course, has no idea what he's talking about. He points out the dent in
her car, saying that it's supposedly rare to see a dented Mercedes in Beverly Hills. He exclaims,
"There must be a law or somethin'!" He explains how Trish's husband accused Strip of
making the dent that night, right before accusing Strip of being stoned. "To be honest," he adds. "I
was." [!] Actually, come to think of it, are there any parking valets who aren't stoned when
they're on the job?
Apparently, the Rigor Mortis look is in this year.
Trish doesn't remember any of this, but regardless, Strip thanks her for
taking responsibility for the dent. He says she could have blamed it on him, considering he was
stoned and everything, but according to her, "That never occurred to me." Strip replies, "I
know. That's what knocked me out about you." [??]
Trish insists she was just telling her husband the truth about the dent, but
Strip's convinced she was doing it out of some kind of personal concern for him. Unfortunately,
she shoots down this idea, too. Next, she'll probably ask him what he wanted to be when he was
ten years old so she can stomp all over that dream, too.
Strip gets all pouty, so Trish asks his name. "Think Sunset," he says.
"Strip." [!!!] Trish apologizes, saying it's a bad time, but Strip insists he'll just remember her the
way she was that night. "'Cause I dig thinking about it," [?] he adds with a grin. Um, okay, well I guess it's
good to have a hobby in life.
Strip then adds that "it's unlikely I'll stop thinking about it, just 'cause of
what happened today!" The way he's talking, you'd think they actually had sex that night or
something. I can say with 100% certainty that this is the first time I've ever seen a guy get all
moony about a woman taking the blame for a dent in her car.
Frustrated, Trish asks what he wants, and he asks for a ride to a different
part of the city. She says she's headed in the opposite direction, specifically to her beach house.
Lesson one about getting harassed by strangers: Do not tell them where to find you later. Strip
then claims that his friends have a place on the beach, too, and he might just see her there.
They then proceed to silently stare at each other for so long, I began to
wonder if my VCR had put itself on pause as a self-defense mechanism. Strip finally sighs and
quips, "Well, don't get arrested for that dent, huh?" See, earlier he said it was some kind of law,
and he was throwing in a reference to that earlier comment, thus producing humor. He bids
farewell to Trish and wanders off. The cheesy Love Boat music returns as Trish watches him run
across the street and almost get hit by a car. Nothing's quite as romantic as a hit and run accident.