Sunday, August 15, 2010

ONSCREEN: What's with Alicia Witt making love in lifts with men she shouldn't be with?

What's with Alicia Witt making love in lifts with men she shouldn't be with?  Well, not Alicia exactly, but some of the lusty, unfaithful characters she plays onscreen.
  • Exhibit A:
Consider her steamy elevator scene in Season 2, Episode 7 of The Sopranos ("D-Girl", 2000). Witt, as film development executive Amy Safir, begins an illicit liaison with her fiancé's mafiso cousin, Christopher Molitsanti (Michael Imperioli), in a hotel elevator and consummates it all over her room.

Chris, we already know, has no respect for the terms of engagement (his fiancée is Adriana La Cerva, played by Drea de Matteo). That's not surprising, since The Sopranos and the gangster fare that inspired it, whether fictional (e.g., Casino, The Godfather Trilogy, Goodfellas, The Public Enemy, Scarface), semi-fictional (e.g., The Untouchables), or true-life (e.g., the Decavalcante Crime Family), perpetuate the belief that most gangsters (and their wives) take having a comàre or three for granted. We also know Christopher has become disenchanted with the breakdown of Cosa Nostra values, and so he feels justified violating the taboo against airing Family secrets and bloody laundry (even in fiction).

But Cousin Greg (Dominic Fumusa), whom Amy and Chris cuckold, had introduced the pair in a win-win effort to help Chris make mob-oriented movies and Amy find marketable film projects. For Chris to sleep with that cousin's (ANY relative's) intended wife?  Madonn'! Chrissie clearly doesn't much respect family ties, either.  (Except, of course, when they involve Chris' cousin/uncle/mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and Adrianna.  We see how Chris feels when he thinks the shoe's on the other foot in "Irregular Around the Margins" - Season 5, Episode 57 and in his movie Cleaver, aired in "Stage 5" - Season 6, Episode 79.)

Exhibit B:

I wonder if Witt's steamy elevator scene in The Sopranos inspired either her casting or the elevator scene in the movie, Last Holiday (2006)?  In this big-screen flick, Witt plays sultry secretary, Ms. Burns, who gets lovey-dovey in the lift with her married boss, Matthew Kragen (Timothy Hutton).  Later, a tete-a-tete with Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah) in a hotel spa reveals Kragen has been stringing Burns along with promises he will leave his wife.  Burns feels stressed, trapped, and unable to leave because she has no education.  Byrd advises her (in so many words):  stop being a sucker (pun intended), go back to school, and take charge of your professional and personal destiny!

The Upshot:

Both stories end well for the women and badly for the men. 

In The Sopranos, sleazy Safir severs ties with Moltisanti and his film project (after, of course, her boss has stolen Chris' concept).  In a less-than-subtle symbolic scene, Chris confronts and insults Safir, calling her a "D-girl".  The Yale University graduate and doctor's daughter, Safir, leaves Chris standing at the bottom of a staircase (an "auto" lift of sorts) and corrects him (read:  puts him back in his place), while steadily ascending - "I'm a Vice-President, you moron!"  The experience temporarily wounds Christopher emotionally (he really liked Amy) and opens his eyes to the shark-like nature of the film industry (which is not unlike that of the mafia, but without the offscreen violence). But Chris' world doesn't collapse. Not immediately.  That happens after he makes another film (a revenge fantasy, which could have been subtitled, "Pork Store Killer's Revenge") with a little help from "friends of his" both buttoned ("made") and buttonholed (made to help). The film's message contributes to Chris' demise, and sometime later, Moltisanti suffers a tragic fate at the hands of Tony, who modeled the film's protagonist (in "Kennedy and Heidi" -  The Sopranos: Season 6, Part 2, Episode 83). 

In Last Holiday, Burns' status elevates while Kragen's plummets.  Burns takes Byrd's advice; she returns to school, graduates, and gets a better job at the Grand Hotel Pupp. In contrast, her adulterous, manipulative, self-interested former boss, Kragen, loses his money to his ex-wife and the Securities and Exchange Commission.