There are certain things that just don’t mesh. One of those is that men and women have differences in the ways they approach life, which explains why some marriages are rocky. And that’s just when men and women co-exist in the same household, imagine them trying to co-exist in the same body…
The premise of All of Me is just that. The comedic talents of Steve Martin are put to the test in this underrated gem directed by Carl Reiner. Imagine a guy whose real dream is to be a jazz musician but having to perform duties as a lawyer because being an artist just doesn’t pay the bills. Not only that but having to kowtow to rich people because, after all, money is what really makes the world go ’round.
Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin are a perfect match in this film. Martin is the aforementioned laywer and jazz musician wannabe and Tomlin is a rich spoiled brat who is dying and wants to transfer her soul into the body of her stable master’s young daughter. No comments here about soul transference from this author, just in case you are one who believes such a feat is possible.
The whole set up, however, depends on you believing such a feat is at least possible. Martin’s character is a realist who thinks Tomlin is crazy, at least until the accident that puts her soul in control of half of his body…
All of Me (1984):
Roger Cobb (Steve Martin) works as an attorney in a law firm, but he is dissatisfied with his lot in life. For one thing, his boss, Schuyler (Dana Elcar) is dragging his heels in making Cobb a full fledged partner in the law firm, even though Cobb is his imminent son-in-law. He is dating the boss’ daughter, Peggy (Madolyn Smith, familiar to those of you who have seen Urban Cowboy as the rich woman Bud hooks up with when his marriage is on the rocks).
Also, Cobb really doesn’t like the penny-ante duties to which he is assigned. Not to mention that his real love is when he gets to sit in on the jazz music sessions where he plays guitar with his friend Tyrone (Jason Bernard). One of those unappealing jobs he gets with the law firm is helping rich heiress Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin). Edwina wants to transfer her vast wealth into the name of Terry Hoskins (Victoria Tennant), the daughter of he estate’s stable master (Eric Christmas).
She isn’t doing this out of a beneficial desire to improve the life of Terry. Rather she has plans, with the help of a mystic, Prahka Lasa (Richard Libertini), to transfer her soul into the body of Terry after she dies. Roger thinks the whole idea is nuts, but he is just there to perform the legal duties. But when he tells Edwina her idea is stupid, she responds with telling him to get out and goes to Schuyler to try to get him fired.
During this session she does indeed die and her soul is transferred to a bowl in preparation for the transfer. But an accident knocks the bowl out of the window where, guess what, it conks on the head of Roger. Now Edwina’s soul inhabits Roger’s body. Not his whole body, however. Roger still has control over one side and Edwina has control over the other.
The rest of the movie involves an attempt by Roger to get this unwanted presence out of his body. The fly in the ointment is, now that it has proven that the whole idea was possible, Terry is not in the mood to follow through. Which leaves Roger to scramble to find a way to get rid of Edwina.
Roger’s initial disgust with Edwina does transform over time, however. Eventually he and Edwina come to terms where she is willing to let Prahka transfer her soul into some flowers just to let Roger have back full control of his body. But Roger’s new found respect and even growing love for Edwina have him trying to get the original transfer to come to fruition.
The best parts of the movie involve some of Roger and Edwina trying to cope with the co-occupancy, including a rather funny scene where Roger has to go to the men’s room. Also at one point Edwina has to take over full control of Roger’s body as he has actually fallen asleep during the divorce trial he is administering for his boss.
In recent years Martin has distanced himself from these kind of wacky performances. But if you loved The Jerk, you will be glad to know that this was still during that screwball phase of his career. Tomlin herself relies mostly on her vocal abilities since she is not a physical presence for most of the movie. But she can pull off the annoying spoiled heiress pretty well even without actually being on screen.
Jim Brymer, AKA Quiggy, runs the movie blog The Midnite Drive-In, check it out for more insights on other classic films.