30. Who’s That Girl

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Movie: Who’s That Girl

Release Date: August 7, 1987

Director: James Foley

Starring: Madonna, Griffin Dunne, Haviland Morris, John Mc Martin, Sir John Mills.

Tag Lines: “A funny thing happened on the way to the bus station.”

Relevance: By 1987, Madonna was already my queen. Her first three albums, ‘Madonna,’ ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘True Blue’ were always in heavy rotation on the boombox in my room. Her images seductively stared at me while I slept through the numerous posters that hung on my walls. I ate, slept, dreamed and breathed all things Madonna. 1987 was a pivotal year because it was the first time that I finally saw her perform live on stage. My mother would not allow me to go see “The Virgin Tour” at the age of fourteen. It was the only full concert in Madonna’s career that I never saw, something I always reminded my mother about. However, nothing was going to stop me from seeing her at the age of sixteen.

As soon as tickets for the “Who’s That Girl World Tour” were announced to go on sale, I started my begging. Thankfully it didn’t take much arm twisting as my mom decided to make it into a little family trip to visit her sister. Me, my sister and two friends from high school would go to the concert in Philadelphia, PA and afterwards head to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in neighboring New Jersey for a quick visit. The day the tickets went on sale, my sister and I went to a local department store that had a Ticketmaster location. At 10 am sharp on a Saturday morning sometime in the Spring of 1987, I got my hands on four tickets to see Madonna. All was right with the world.

In June of that same year, Madonna made her first TV talk show appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” I of course stayed up to watch it and was excited to get the first glimpse of the film ‘Who’s That Girl’ as well as see Mr. Carson flirt with my favorite blonde on the planet. Later that month, Madonna released her song and video to “Who’s That Girl.” The soundtrack to the movie had not been released yet, so I had recorded the song off of the radio on to a blank cassette tape and listened and re-listened to it until I knew every single word. Likewise, every time the video played on MTV, I watched it and practiced all of the dance moves, hand gestures and facial expressions that my queen made. The video made me very excited for both the upcoming concert as well as the film ‘Who’s That Girl’ as the video gave me more images of what to expect from the movie. I was in Madonna heaven.

On July 11, 1987, I traveled with my family and friends in a rented van to Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia, PA. With over 46,000 people in attendance, the energy and excitement was electrifying. Our tickets were in the 33rd row (I still have the ticket stub) and I couldn’t have been more excited. Level 42 was the opening act, a band that I also enjoyed, although not to the extent of Madonna. We listened in the hot sun, clapping along but secretly waiting for them to be over so Madonna could hit the stage. With that said and despite their lead singer and bassist, Mark King’s foot being in a cast, they were very entertaining as they sang their hits “Lessons in Love” and “Something About You.” But let’s face it, we were all there for Madonna.

Once Madonna hit the stage I was entranced and remembered very little specifics about the actual show. I do know that I was standing on my chair while screaming and singing along to every single word. I recall that Madonna messed up the lyrics to her hit “Holiday” and said “Oh shit.” I also remember looking at my sister when Madonna started singing The Four Tops song “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” as it was a favorite of ours when we went through a Motown phase at our house. Besides those very few memories, the almost two hour concert was a blur. I do know however that I was smiling, because I finally got to be in the same room with my idol.

The rest of July I remained in heavenly bliss when the soundtrack to ‘Who’s That Girl’ was finally released. Not only did it contain the title track that I already knew and loved, it also had three other Madonna songs, two of which she performed on tour, as well as some fun other pop songs by other artists. It was nice to finally have the “song of the summer” on an official release instead of my radio version on the blank tape. “Who’s That Girl” was getting huge radio airplay, eventually becoming a number one song in the United States later that summer, ironically the same week the movie was released to theaters.

‘Who’s That Girl’ was released in early August. It was critically panned and was not at all a success at the box office. It seemed that no one in the 1980’s wanted to see Madonna, a woman, be successful in more than one field. Music was her gig, not movies. Most of her films got attacked way before they were even released to theaters. In a man’s world, especially Hollywood, we couldn’t let a woman get too successful. She was also a polarizing figure. There were just as many people that loathed her than loved her. And yes, she had been in some bad movies, but so had Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. But because I loved her so, I always thought she was a fine actress. ‘Who’s That Girl’ is her sixth film out of eight film to appear on my list of most influential movies of all time (see 215. Four Rooms, 177. Body of Evidence, 98. Dick Tracy, 94. Desperately Seeking Susan and 35. A League of Their Own for the other five).

I went on a date with my mom to see ‘Who’s That Girl’ in theaters one summer day in mid August, right around Madonna’s birthday. We were one of the few in attendance, but I didn’t care. My mom had made a promise to take me to one of her next movies after missing ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ during its theatrical run. She made good on her word. With popcorn and a drink, both of us laughed and were completely entertained by the movie and Madonna. It was a screwball comedy, not my mom’s favorite, but with the romance storyline as well as Madonna’s music throughout, my mom gave the movie a thumbs up.

Over the years, the movie has become one of my all time favorite films. It was super silly, laugh out loud funny and completely entertaining. I think Madonna’s performance as Nikki Finn was hysterically brilliant. Looking back over her acting career, all you have to do is look at five of her films, 98. Dick Tracy, 94. Desperately Seeking Susan, 35. A League of Their Own the upcoming ‘Evita’ as well as ‘Who’s That Girl’ to prove my point that she was definitely a fine actress. These are five different and distinctive characters and all beautifully executed. Nikki Finn though is the one that gives me the most smiles as well as the most quotes. I mean, “Nikki Sue Trott, from the Atlanta Trott’s with the three T’s,” Laugh. Out. Loud. Every time.

I have owned ‘Who’s That Girl’ on both VHS and DVD and it is a film I have watched over and over again. I quote and reference this movie a lot. From “Louden Clear” to “Park at a slant and no one scratches” to “Is it possible for to be any dumber” to “I had her in my cab once,” this movie is comedy gold. ‘Who’s That Girl’ gave me so much joy and a summer of memories that will last a lifetime which makes it the perfect film to start off my top thirty movies of all time.

Today’s Thoughts: “We did one of your things already. We murdered the pimp and the fat man. Now it’s time to do one of my things.”

Before leaving for work this morning, my husband saw the DVD case to ‘Who’s That Girl’ on our dresser and started singing the Madonna song. I could think of worse ways to wake up. It reminded me that today’s movie was a “Madonna” movie so I quickly grabbed a cup of coffee, jumped back in bed and pressed play. It was Nikki Finn time.

I absolutely love this movie. It is super funny and silly and had me smiling from beginning to end. Between the film, seeing Madonna and hearing her songs, there is no way I could possibly have a bad day today, despite it still being 2020. Not only is Madonna sheer perfection in this role, but Griffin Dunne is equally perfect, the ying to Madonna’s yang if you will. Playing the “straight” man can be a difficult job, but he does so with so much ease and makes the role as the uptight lawyer as loose as can be. I adore watching their antics on the screen. Yes, some of it is over the top, but as far as screwball comedies go, it is quite tame and completely lovable. Even after thirty-three years, the film still makes me laugh out loud.

Ridicule and dismiss her as an actress all you want, but Madonna is a force to be reckoned with and her performance as Nikki Finn is most enjoyable. ‘Who’s That Girl’ is a movie that I not only highly recommend but require if you are to be my friend. If you poo-poo this movie because you heard that it’s bad or you don’t like Madonna (which is punishable by house law), you are missing out on a movie that will make you smile, laugh and forget about your problems for awhile.

And check out its soundtrack too.

Awards: Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “Who’s That Girl,” Patrick Leonard, Madonna (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Vudu, DVD Availability.

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