Making Mr. Right: Susan Seidelman’s Feminist Fable Starring Ann Magnuson and John Malkovitch in Dual Role

After her breakthrough indie comedy, Desperately Seeking Susan, Seidelman got bigger production budgets at her disposal–and commercial pressures to match.

Grade: C (*1/2* out of *****)

Making mr right.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The studios wanted her to remake versions and variations of the 1985 comedy over and over again, but instead, she chose to direct Making Mr. Right, a satire about the relationship between a public relations expert and her robot.

On the surface, the narrative is a feminist version of the popular Frankenstein myth.

Frankie (Ann Magnuson) is hired to socialize an android astronaut called Ulysses (John Malkovitch), and over the objections of his inventor, does such good a job of humanizing him that she falls for him.

Like Desperately Seeking Susan, Making Mr. Right is a high-concept indie: The text relies on the notion of mistaken identity—a robot who develops a heart. But unlike the 1985 romantic, this film lacks charm and the casting is flawed.

As co-written by Floyd Byars and Laurie Frank, the movie is supposed to provide commentary on modern relationships: Real men are so repulsive that women prefer androids who are sweet and open about their feelings. The other male characters are priggish, self-centered, and sexually inept.

The film’s message is kneejerk feminist at its most cynical, suggesting men are so inadequate they have to be manufactured by women. The android’s wide-eyed amazement–a boy in the body of a grown man (with a big penis)–makes him desirable.

Seidelman thus repeats Mel Brooks’s schtick of using the big penis of a monster in Young Frankenstein, albeit without the humor and obscenities and Madeline Kahn’s high-pitched thrills in Brooks’ picture

Though obvious, Making Mr. Right offers some incidental pleasures: The Miami atmosphere, a mixture of Jewish and Cubano (Se Habla Yiddish, a store sign reads) is a corrective to Miami Vice’s stylish glaze.

The opening scene, which shows a pressured Frankie shaving her legs while driving to work, presents a comic view of modern working woman.

John Malkovich, in an offbeat casting choice, plays both the prissy scientist who constructs the android in his own image, and the android itself. As the hapless inventor Dr. Peters, who hates and fears women, Malkovich talks in a droning, pedantic voice. As the android Ulysses, he walks in a stiff-kneed Frankenstein stagger, his mouth frozen in a dumb grin. During sex, Ulysses gets so excited that his head screws around backward and his body short-circuits and falls apart.

Having a bright woman, such as Frankie, fall in love for an android strains any–even moviesh–credibility. This problem gets worse with the casting: Malkovich, who is an intelligent actor, lacks sex appeal, and thus is unable to project the wild, irresistible sexuality that is required to pull off such a fable.

Greeted with mixed to negative critical response, Making Mr. Right was a big commercial flop, considering its relatively high budget of $9 million.

John Malkovich as Dr. Jeff Peters/Ulysses
Ann Magnuson as Frankie Stone
Glenne Headly as Trish
Ben Masters as Steve Marcus
Laurie Metcalf as Sandra “Sandy” McCleary
Polly Bergen as Estelle Stone
Harsh Nayyar as Dr. Ramdas
Hart Bochner as Don
Susan Berman as Ivy Stone
Polly Draper as Suzy Duncan
Christian Clemenson as Bruce
Merwin Goldsmith as Moe Glickstein


Directed by Susan Seidelman

Written by Floyd Byars, Laurie Frank

Produced by Joel Tuber

Cinematography; Edward Lachman

Edited by Andrew Mondshein

Music by Chaz Jankel

Production company: Barry & Enright Productions

Distributed by Orion Pictures

Release date: April 3, 1987
Running time: 99 minutes

Budget: $9 million

Box office: $1,584,970