The year’s biggest supermoon is illuminating the night sky this week. So of course my mind conjures thoughts of the glorious Jack Nicholson-Michelle Pfeiffer collaboration, Mike Nichol’s howlin’ at the moon look at a midlife crisis, Wolf (1994). I’m picturing a hirsute Jack making jokes about the Hair Club for Men, and a flawless Michelle as the film’s hero, delivering one cutting remark after another and generally being as cool as any character she’s ever played.
Wolf one of my very pfavorite Pfeiffer pfilms, one that I typically watch annually (if not biannually), so I’ve written at length about it plenty over the years, including right here, last November. Because I’ve already said so much about the movie, I’ll just share a few reasons I love it.
One of my most vivid memories of seeing this in the theater in 1994—besides the one where my friend fell asleep next to me during it, which still irritates me!—is just how blown away I was by Michelle’s hair, of all things. I mean, it’s perfect. All time great hair movie for her, no question. Up there with Batman Returns and The Witches of Eastwick, to name a few. She also looks as stunning as she ever has on film, which is really saying something.
The bonus features on my Blu-ray edition, including this interview from 1994, further cement the film’s status in the upper echelon of championship hair roles. That sentence I just wrote is pure nonsense, but you get my meaning, right? I mean:
Jack’s hair can’t compete—even when he starts wolfing out—but his diatribe against modern culture early in the film is both obnoxiously privileged and hilariously accurate, even nearly thirty years later. Jack’s performance is wonderful. He tones down what by then was already the cliche Jack persona on film for something subtly, slyer, funnier.
The supporting cast is outrageously good. David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Plummer, and Kate Nelligan are excellent, as usual. James Spader shines like he always does playing a smarmy jerk. When Nicholson, already bitten by the wolf and slowly transforming over time, marks his territory by pissing all over Spader’s expensive suede shoes, it’s the sort of audience fist-pumping moment that only works so well because Spader has already made us loathe this weasel.
The climactic showdown between wolfmen Nicholson and Spader, with Pfeiffer stuck in the middle, is ludicrous and amazing and I love every goofy minute of it. There’s so much slow motion. So. Much. Spader, attacking Pfeiffer, seems to be dry humping her in a truly “how the hell did this make the final cut?” moment. Spader and Nicholson snarl and leap through the air like they’ve been shot out of a cannon.
Wolf also features a terrific story arc for Pfeiffer. Her character Laura Alden is tough but wounded, and ultimately doesn’t need a man to save her. She fires the shot that ends the battle of the wolfmen. Cut to later that evening and it’s abundantly clear that Laura herself is a wolf. This leads to one of my favorite final shots in cinema—Michelle slowly walking at the camera, wearing a knowing, sly smile, until finally only her glowing yellow-green eyes remain, as the wolf howls in the night. I get chills just thinking about it!
These are only a fraction of the many reasons I adore Wolf, and always will. Happy supermoon viewing—watch out for the glowing eyes out there in the dark though, will ya?