“Everything I want is in this room”: Happy Anniversary, Frankie and Johnny

I’ve loved an awful lot of movies in my life, but none more than Frankie and Johnny, which opened thirty-one years ago today, October 10, 1991.

The superlatives for this movie are endless. A career-best performance from Michelle Pfeiffer as Frankie, a 30-something New York City diner waitress who’s been hurt badly in the past but is ever so cautiously taking tentative steps towards love. That love comes in the form of her persistent and sweet suitor Johnny, played by Al Pacino in a lovely performance. Together, Michelle and Al make movie magic. Frankie and Johnny is thoughtful and romantic, made by and for adults who have lived enough to know that life is messy and complicated, but also truly beautiful.

The stellar cast is loaded with talent. Nathan Lane is riotously funny as Frankie’s neighbor and best friend Tim, who tirelessly implores Frankie to open her heart again. Kate Nelligan, Jane Morris, and Hector Elizondo are Frankie’s coworkers at the Apollo Cafe. The film offers a vivid, touching portrait of how the family we find in our friends as we age—the family we actually choose—is crucial and special. Terrence McNally’s dialogue is lyrical and punchy, full of memorable lines like, “If I wanted a man in my life, I wouldn’t have bought a VCR—I can’t even work!” Garry Marshall’s direction and Dante Spinotti’s cinematography show great respect and love for these characters, and the score by Marvin Hamlisch is, quite simply, sublime.

The last act, set entirely in Frankie’s apartment, is an emotionally draining tour-de-force for both actors. We learn about Frankie’s past trauma and why she has built a protective cocoon around her heart. Johnny, persistent as ever, tries to reassure her that he’s there now, and he’ll always be by her side. Through a fountain of tears, Michelle delivers a jaw dropping monologue about the fear that has shaped her existence and how she’s so tired of being afraid. At one point, frustrated and worn down, Frankie asks Johnny, “Why are you doing this?” To which he replies, “Everything I want is in this room.” That’s why this movie means so much to me. Everything I want out of a movie is in Frankie and Johnny‘s room.

3 thoughts on ““Everything I want is in this room”: Happy Anniversary, Frankie and Johnny

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