A sleepy New England town, three bored women and The Devil.Alex, Sukie and Jane are tired and smothered. Their lives are completely ordinary and they long for excitement beyond the occasional lazy ladies night. None of them are attached and couldn’t find a decent man with a splunking kit. One evening they each make a wish, tailored to their individual fantasies, for the perfect man. Enter the diabolical but ever-so entertaining Daryl. Brought by his black steed of a town car, Daryl sweeps these women tottering on the edge of rebellion into full-fledged mutiny. The bucolic Eastwick, which has always been a model of Yankee conformity, soon finds itself split into puritanical rifts between a new arrival and the status quo. Even the audience is rent between morals and fun.
Cher is perfectly cast as the artist (Alexandra) obsessed with feminine power. Michelle Pfeiffer (Sukie) is sweetly out of character as a stupendously fertile woman. Susan Sarandon (Jane) is perfection as a repressed band teacher. Veronica Cartwright, as the town’s Cassandra gives an excellent performance of a woman going slowly mad. If only Hollywood would always give us such meaty roles for women. Jack Nicholson is so good, it makes your bones cold in that “I’d love to ruin you” way. Hell, I wouldn’t be able to resist him. He is that good.
Witches is a peculiarly American film in the best sense. The tug between the town’s mores and individual expression is such a common American tale. While a few members accomplish breaking the community tenets, most live lives of quiet conformity. Witches gives us a glimpse into the hedonism, amusement and sensuality that the viewer can sublimate as their own. The three women must learn to deal with both the condemnation of the community and the threat of each other, but what a ride!
Updike doesn’t usually translate well to the screen, but The Witches of Eastwick was made to be filmed. The problem with Updike is that sometimes the restraint that so paradoxically gives his literature life doesn’t come across well on film. The supernatural subject matter of Witches and its darkest comedy are guilty in the best sense of the word. George Miller’s direction keeps the film on target. Miller’s other works include Babe: Pig in the City, a similarly dark piece that failed to connect with most viewers and the Mad Max series.The Witches of Eastwick is delicious, like a bowl of glistening, red, ripe cherries. And even more amusing.