#16: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — dir. Mike Nichols
When I mention this film, and someone kind of looks at me like, “Okay, really?” then I know they haven’t seen it. If you’re any kind of writer, even a motherfucking children’s book author, if this film hasn’t influenced you, what the fuck are you doing with your life? I was going to put Glengarry Glen Ross on this list, but this’ll cover it. You think the “Put that coffee down” speech is liquid dynamite? Hold on to your dick, junior.
It’s just basically two lovable hideous monsters who gleefully destroy everything. It’s Burton and Taylor on fire. Charlize Theron gained 30 pounds and put on hideous makeup to play a serial killer who kills men to get her Oscar. Taylor gained 30 pounds to play a frumpy professor’s wife and set off even more fireworks. Sandy Dennis and George Segal as the unwitting Nick and Honey, getting thrust into the fire of George and Martha’s destroyed life. Holy fuck.
But it’s that dialogue that does it every time. It’s just like trying to sit in a hurricane of kitchen knifes and shattered glass. Every exchange is a barb, a hook, a slice. These two people hate each other so much because they love each other so much and have been through hell, so they can cut each other deep and smile while doing it. Goddamn. It will fuck you UP.
It was also extremely risque for the time period. Swearing with “goddamns” and “sons-of-bitches” and talking about abortions and sexual dalliances. While it might be quaint by today’s standards, this was some serious shit back in the 60’s. And not for shock value or titillation. If you want to see how to write fireworks, you watch this, you watch The Lion in Winter. That’s how shit gets done.