One from the Heart (Francis Ford Coppola, 1982)
One from the Heart initially stuck in my head because of Sneak Previews, the original Siskel and Ebert movie review show back when it was on public television. My favorite section of the show was always the Dog of the Week, at the end, when each critic would highlight the worst film he’d seen that week. I got a lot of recommendations from the Dog of the Week. That, naturally, led to a year-end list of the ten worst movies of the year. If a movie showed up on the Ten Worst list, I was almost guaranteed a good time. One from the Heart was on Gene Siskel’s ten worst list for 1982; if I recall correctly, it was #1. (Pretty much anything that made their lists from that year is gold; they also included Inchon, Pink Floyd: The Wall, and Halloween III.) But I’d never gotten a chance to see it until recently. While Coppola has always been an on-and-off director for me, I’ve found over the years that it’s pretty hard to go wrong with Frederic Forrest, and with One from the Heart, Forrest gets a rare starring role. It’s not the best movie in the world—certainly not in the same league as Forrest’s other major 1982 film, Hammett—but it’s certainly not one of 1982’s worst movies.
Plot: Hank (Forrest) and Frannie (Tootsie‘s Teri Garr) have been living together for coming up on ten years. The two of them have settled into boredom and routine, and Frannie has had enough; she announces, on the eve of their fifth anniversary, that she’s leaving. Hank puts up token resistance, but when it comes right down to it, he’s more perturbed by the disturbing of the routine. Soon after, the two of them meet their dream mates in Ray (Tempest‘s Raul Julia) and Leila (Cat People‘s Nastassja Kinski), but Hank soon realizes that dream girl or no dream girl, Frannie is the one he really loves. What lengths is he willing to go to in order to get her back?
Read as a straight film, One from the Heart does indeed make very little sense. I hesitate to speculate on Coppola’s mental state (or state of inebriation) at the time he was making this movie, but asking oneself “what was everyone involved in this movie smoking?” on a regular basis will not put you too many standard deviations away from the norm. On the other hand, if you read this as Coppola’s attempt—and one should always remember that Coppola began his career in the Corman factory with the similarly off the wall Dementia 13 almost twenty years before this—to make a psychedelic musical, the way L. Q. Jones had tried to make a psychedelic science fiction film seven years before with A Boy and His Dog, One from the Heart starts making a little more sense. The plot’s fuzziness, the somewhat puerile sense of humor on occasion, the sometimes silly decisions made by the characters. It all falls into place. That doesn’t excuse the movie’s shortcomings, but at least it allows you to have some fun with them. ** ½