William Friedkin’s debut feature. A post-Hard Day’s Night pop musical that sees Sonny and Cher spoof the western, Tarzan, and hard-boiled detective genres.
The tone and production style evoke the then-contemporary Batman television series—complete with George Sanders as the celebrity villain.
The hard-boiled segment elicited a few chuckles, but the rest falls flat. Sonny gets more lines and screen time than Cher, to the film’s detriment. Something about his performance gnawed at me. I couldn’t shake the sense that he was “playing” Sonny. Maybe it was the dissonance of his age and his haircut, or maybe it was the contrast with Cher’s apparent ease, but regardless, he lacked the charisma to carry the picture.
Add a star if you’re an ardent fan of their music.
Commentary watch. Lee Gambin, an unabashed fan of both Friedkin and Sonny and Cher, offers a wealth of information about the film’s production and stars. But he did little to convince me of the film’s merits. At best, I gained an appreciation for Friedkin’s dynamic camera work. But I still struggled with Bono’s uncanny valley performance. He’s a thirty-something man acting like a teenager. It’s not so much that it’s a bad performance (it is) but how calculated it feels, right down to portraying him as a henpecked husband with Cher not letting him ride his motorcycle.
The supplemental interview with Friedkin from 2018 proved more enlightening. Friedkin reveals he passed on directing second unit in John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix to make this film. He also makes clear how Bono was the driving creative force. Looking back, he regrets the film’s vigorous rehearsals, though admits Sonny and Cher required them. Maybe he’s reacting to the same artifice in Bono’s performance.