Guarding Tess Reviews
I certainly did not get what I was expecting out of Guarding Tess. With such a ridiculous premise, you would have presumed that it would mainly focus on a Driving Miss Daisy type situation where the central basis for the film is the banter between the determined young man and the grouchy old woman. In a totally unexpected turn of events, Guarding Tess actually turns its premise into one that is dramatic while the atmosphere attempts to be comedic which means that the tone is very strange. It is a difficult one to grasp because you can never be certain that what you're watching is comedy or drama as the film goes back and forth between them without ever being settling. Because of this, it is never properly interpretive as dramatic but also sporadically funny as a comedy. Most of the entertainment value of the film comes into play primarily because it is just so strange in its approach, but in that same regard it is possible that viewers will find themselves isolated from the film because it cannot always decide what it wants to be. I could not decide how to interpret it, but the whole time I was trying to do that I only found it to be slightly entertaining. Really, it all falls down to the fact that Guarding Tess cannot decide whether it wants to be a legitimate political thriller, a parody of one or a simple odd couple themed comedy regarding different states of class. The problem is that there is too much to fit in there, and writer-director Hugh Wilson cannot for the life of him find the right balance to make it work. It is material which is virtually beyond repair as it is so loosely constructed without a strong base. It is just too strange because the screenplay does not have enough clever quips about the world in it or any real recognizable jokes. Despite a high concept premise and interesting setting, Guarding Tess reduces itself to being a derivative political story without much creativity to it whatsoever. The story in the film is not one which is worth remembering in the slightest because it is not clever enough, and it just seems like a wannabe version of Driving Miss Daisy which gets too caught up in being a political thriller to really do justice to its viewers as a comedy. I never felt any shocks from the film which meant that it was not an absorbing drama, and the supposed comedy of the film did not leave me laughing at any point so it is safe to say that it fails in both areas predominantly because of the fact that the two genres prove to really counter each other in a negative fashion. Things clash in Guarding Tess, and when I say that I do not mean the banter between mismatched characters.
The main thing establishing the atmosphere in Guarding Tess as being comedic is the musical score because the screenplay itself does not really have enough jokes in it, and so the only thing really reminding viewers that things are meant to be funny proves to be the music in the feature, even though it doesn't do much else for the film. Its production values are also good.
The one thing which makes Guarding Tess memorable and really entertaining on any level comes from the performances from the central two cast members.
Nicolas Cage's performance is a serious asset in Guarding Tess, and that can rarely ever be said about an intentional Nicolas Cage comedy film. Nicolas Cage's over the top demeanour which has been known for turning many films such as Deadfall or The Wicker Man into unintentional comedy works to a comic benefit in Guarding Tess. Since the film takes itself so seriously but also wants to coexist as a comedy, it is actually the perfect fit for Nicolas Cage because he takes his leading role on in such a hardcore fashion where he is merciless with aggression. Nicolas Cage takes the role on in such a dramatic fashion while the film around him mixes the atmosphere between comedy and drama which actually makes things funny in such a ridiculous fashion. His over the top performance is one of the funniest aspects of the film and proves to be one of the best examples of his over the top nature in cinema which actually proves beneficial for once as it makes Guarding Tess a memorable film. He stands out as the best aspect of the film.
Shirley MacLaine is also a nice addition to the cast. As the titular Tess Carlisle, Shirley MacLaine fits the profile well because she captures all the grouchy elements of the character without going over the top. She manages to make Tess Carlisle a sympathetic character without forgetting to implement in the little elements that make her follow a comedic archetype. She isn't as funny as you might hope because her character is not as light in nature as she should be to really make a funny impact, but Shirley MacLaine has no difficulties getting the nature of the character correct. It is certainly one of her less funny roles of her many comedic efforts, but within the strange mood of the film she is able to play the role out in a dramatic fashion fairly well. Her chemistry with Nicolas Cage is fairly good since they both take the project so seriously and are able to make a strong match for each other, and so Shirley MacLaine's confidence proves to be a nice touch to Guarding Tess.
So Guarding Tess benefits from the surprisingly dedicated performances from a rather funny Nicolas Cage and a firmly dramatic Shirley MacLaine, but the loosely constructed screenplay and inconsistent tone make for a rather shaky experience which isn't funny or dramatic enough to work on any level.