Making Mr. Right: Seidelman’s Feminist Fable Starring John Malkovitch

After her breakthrough indie comedy, Desperately Seeking Susan, Seidelman had bigger budgets at her disposal–and pressure to match.

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

On the surface, it’s a feminist version of Frankenstein: 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 relies on mistaken identity–a robot who develops a heart–but this outing lackes charm.

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 use of the monster in Young Frankenstein, without the obscenities and Madeline Kahn’s high-pitched thrills.

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 an intelligent woman as Frankie fall for an android strains credibility, particularly as Malkovich doesn’t register the wild sexuality to pull it off.