THE MUSE (1999)

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Christopher

I had never heard of this movie until Elizabeth mentioned it one day. I was surprised how many well-known actors were in it but I think that, along with it being a childhood favorite of Elizabeth’s, is what had me interested in watching.

I enjoyed the film. I think the plot was enjoyable and interesting idea, but I do also think it is a movie people would easily forget about. However, one thing about this film that I think is unforgettable is Jeff Bridges, who is a successful screenwriter and friend of Albert Brooks. It’s a role very similar to Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly. Okay movie, but incredible performance. There is one scene where Bridges and Brooks are talking about stuff, yada yada yada, and during the whole thing, Bridges is trying to serve in tennis. However, he just can’t make it over the net. The gag plays for quite a while but it’s so great. Totally worth seeing just for that I think!

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

The Muse is one of those movies that I love but literally no one I ever ask about it has ever even heard of it, much less seen it. When it first came out, I thought it was going to be huge because of everyone in it, but instead it came and went and was forgotten. But goddammit I love this movie.

The Muse follows Steven Philips (Albert Brooks), a screenwriter who loses his deal with a movie studio after his latest script is panned by pretty much everyone who comes across it. Steven turns to his best friend, Jack (Jeff Bridges), a fellow screenwriter of around the same age who has known nothing but success. Jack cautiously tells Steven his secret – a muse. This muse, though, is for real – a Greek goddess that inspires art. Once Steven believes him, he immediately wants in and Jack sets up an appointment to meet Sarah (Sharon Stone), the muse. When he meets her, she tells him she will take him on as a client, which means Steven will be taking on all of Sarah’s living expenses. Being a goddess, Sarah only accepts lodging at a suite at the Four Seasons, meals at fancy restaurants, and doesn’t drive.

Steven decides to not tell his wife, Laura (Andie MacDowell) – until Jack tells Steven he has to bring Sarah a gift from Tiffany’s and while there is caught buying something for a woman other than Laura by one of her friends, and Laura forces it out of him over fears that he’s cheating. Once Laura sees all the inane shit that Sarah puts Steven through, however, she fully accepts Steven’s story and the fact that he’s not cheating. Sarah then wants to meet Laura, who is nervous about the meeting, only for Sarah and Laura to become inseparable friends.

During all of this, Sarah gives Steven little nuggets of inspiration. She takes him to an aquarium where he starts outlining a summer comedy starring Jim Carey to take place in an aquarium. Sarah is also constantly visited by past clients who need help here and there, including Jack, James Cameron, and Martin Scorsese. As Sarah and Laura grow closer, Sarah starts to encourage Laura to follow her dream of opening a cookie business. Steven fluctuates between love and frustration with Sarah as he fears she’s spending too much energy inspiring others, including Laura, who doesn’t pause in her business venture for a second despite Steven being a baby about it.

Eventually, as Steven nears the end of his screenplay and Laura’s business only grows more successful, Steven and Laura are visited by two doctors from an Ohio mental hospital who tell the Philips that Sarah is their patient, has multiple personality disorder, and has run away from the hospital. They go to Sarah’s room (throughout the movie she moves closer and closer to the Philips, eventually taking over their bedroom) and find a bedsheet rope leading out the window. Despite that, Steven finishes his script and it is loved by everyone who reads it. When he brings the script back to the original executive that fired him, he tells Steven that Steven’s script was already in production at another studio by Rob Reiner (another former client of Sarah’s). With that, Steven assumes that Sarah is fake and ruined his career.

Some time later, Steven is working at Laura’s cookie store when his agent calls and tells him the Rob Reiner picture is off and the studio wants to make his movie again. He rushes over to the studio to find out the executive who fired him no longer works there and his replacement is none other than Sarah, who has since changed her name, occupation, and hair color, and she ushers him away in excitement.

The whole reason that The Muse even came up with Chris and me is that The Muse was my first introduction to Martin Scorsese before I had any idea who Martin Scorsese was. He’s only in one scene, when Steven comes home to find him banging incessantly on Sarah’s door. They talk briefly, and when I first saw it all I could think of was “Who the hell is this troll?” His character seemed so insane that I thought for sure he was going to come back and be important, because I had no idea he was a guy playing himself. It wasn’t until some time later that I saw what Martin Scorsese looked like and realized it had been that dude.

Jack is a total stand-out character. He’s very Dude-like and calm, but also sort of really stupid. There’s an amazing scene of Jack and Steven playing tennis while they talk, except Jack keeps serving and hits the net every single time:

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Watching The Muse now, I love how Laura brushes off Steven’s concerns about her business. His sexism comes out in flying colors once she brings up the idea of owning her own business, like his annoyance at Laura for not making lunch instead of baking. Despite that, Laura doesn’t stop for a second until she’s more successful than Steven. If Laura had been meek, that whole subplot would have been horrible and annoying. But it’s clear she loves Steven, but doesn’t give a shit what he thinks about her abilities to start her business.

On top of everything else, The Muse is full of great lines, has a shit ton of people in it, and is just one of those pleasant movies that sort of makes you feel good. No one gets raped or murdered, and it all takes place on this Curb Your Enthusiasm-type of plane where everyone is just super rich, which isn’t distracting, it just makes everything easier and make more sense.

The Muse might not change your life, and it’s not the easiest movie to find now, but it’s absolutely worth watching.

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