By Julie Griffin
A sweet film. One man who she ends up with and another who needs to let go. He throws her a huge birthday party with all the other fellow pilots at the club. And gives her a girl dress for her birthday. Pete (Richard Dreyfuss) finds out that it is not so much that she likes dresses. "It's not the dress, it's the way you see me." Al (John Goodman) describes the relationship between Pete and his girl as amazingly sentimental. And with a few love scenes more paramount than the smooth dips and fans of Casablanca, Dorinda (Holly Hunter) still finds a way to hold her own." She calls herself a girl from the south side of St. Louis.
The night that Pete used an Italian accent to announce that all of the boys wanted to dance with his girl and the beautiful dress, just before she made them all wash their hands before they touched the dress. The band played as if Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. And later, even as Pete stood up on the second story of the cedar loft barnhouse like ballroom admiring, a more sentimental stream of relationship, an endearing thought, Dorinda had no idea about herself storing up memories for the future.
Just before the big birthday party ~ On day 2 of Pete's Fire Eater's small plane entrance, the love of his life, who at first feared his small plane headed for a crash breathes a sigh of relief. A fellow flyer and the only female of her group, she takes the plane out to prove a point to him. That his fear tactic of feigning death joined with his birthday greetings for her, and the fact that she thought he almost missed it all too much for her, she shows him how she flies better. Unlike some men, he finds the act a thrill. "I always fly like that. I come in on all three wheels."And she does. And he does not always.
After the irrestible weekend though, the weekend her last with him forever, he promises to retire after the one last flight. And he does. But it is just not the way Dorinda always imagined. Dreyfuss who usually plays a most desirable boyfriend prototype and who talked jokingly about carrying bibles to Salt Lake City, Utah, still has no idea that his jokes mean more prophecy than pun. He promises her that so much of the relationship will soon hinge on a day job in Flatrock, Colorado. And then his friend calls him to help put out a fire. Pete is gone. And yet, the gentle warmth and the loving stance of this film, provides a refreshing relief from most of life that deals only in the negative.
A golden field of ripe old wheat surrounds Pete. His friend has to deliver the bad news to Dorinda who seen sobbing in the flight tower, the mystery of such an event only gives way to the ghost of Pete who oblivious to his dawning passage to the light-filled place tromps lightly through a gentle forest. Once he and the angel figure out that the plane blew up, the distance between his reasoning about where he is and the factual playout take about six months that feel like only five to twenty minutes. "Time is funny stuff Pete," explains the guiding angel who explains the holy spirit to Pete through the use of the Spanish term for that. Santia Espiritu.
Pete she explains, has to begin to give back what he took out, so that the surplus stays balanced. Taking without putting back in empties and expletes the spiritual storehouse. His job, he decides to enjoy and after he finds himself back in the firefighter flyer office, with Al Yackey (John Goodman) invisible and as a combination ghost and angel prototype. And some scenes with Yackey and the now deceased Pete ensue to seem a lot like the gasoline formula science experiments of the pre-war WW II. mystery boys.
One of the comic ideas leaves Yackey covered with a red paint he uses as a point-of-lecture demonstration to humble the boys to remember they're nothing. Always nothing. The ghost of Pete coaches one of the fireboys about how to conduct a romance, while not understanding that the whole key to his success requires him to place the man with his girl. The lesson God wants to teach Pete has a lot more to do with Pete learning to arrange things up better than what he left behind, to bless his ex-girl with a new man, and then leave and go on to heaven.
A singular entrance of the old Saturday Night Live, Julia Child's cooking parody, the one where she cuts her finger and makes a mess of the meal, gives a solid reminder of the difference in personal attitudes from even what was then to what is now. Always came during a time when people and friends and pure, honest and moral behavior and mutual respect between people and doing the right thing still meant something ~ Now it is all about the image and the portrayal as opposed to what is really going on behind the scenes. So, that the representative aspect of the film ~ Even as demonstrated by the mountain man who as Dreyfuss sits in the cave with Ted, the man to become his ex-girl's soon teaches him without the man knowing. "Ted Baker. Wing and a prayer." Ted Baker, the craziest in love about Dorinda during the first dance just before Dreyfuss died, laughs just like the dead boyfriend. And even more so after she announces her cat as Linda Blair. Like a donkey.
One of the most precious of Steven Spielberg films yet, of course only second to E.T., the 1989 drama and romance, based on the 1940's film about another dead ghost pilot who stays on earth only long enough to complete his mission, gives a lot of credence to the fact that man only believes he controls things on earth. But only so much. And only for so long. And that the evil and the wicked human nature finds it easy to be cruel. Man's injustice against other people. Like sharks, some seek the uttermost evil just in order to satisfy the innermost. And after all, the film proves that in the end, all men turn into just dust in the wind sooner or later. But Pete figures out the bigger purpose. To help his girl Dorinda dance again.