What would you do if you accidentally received a check for $5,000,000.00 when you were supposed to get only $50,000.00? That is what happens to Eva Fenton (Shirley MacLaine) after her husband passes away. The life insurance policy was for 50 thousand but a computer error printed a check for 5 million.
With the help of her best friend Maddie (Jessica Lange), Eva decides to take the two of them on a fabulous adventure to the Canary Islands. Why not? She has scrimped and saved all her life as a schoolteacher. She deserves some extravagance. And Maddie’s husband just left her for a much younger woman while she is facing a potentially fatal disease. They both deserve some fun in an exotic place.
While there they meet a man (Billy Connolly) who romances Eva, and Maddie finds a young man (Jay Hayden) to keep her company. She plays Mrs. Robinson – almost literally. (You’ll understand when you watch this movie).
The insurance company sends their agent (Howard Hessman) to retrieve the money that they accidentally sent to Eva. He brings Eva’s daughter Crystal (Demi Moore) with him to the Canary Islands and once they get there they find they are in the middle of a major operation. Eva has been swindled out of her money by a conman and she insists on going after him to get it back. If she doesn’t, she’ll end up in “the pokey.”
While this isn’t the best film, there are some fun scenes. And Shirley MacLaine is wonderful as always. What made this film more entertaining and enjoyable for me was the fact that I had read (actually listened to) the book written by Shirley MacLaine about her adventures making the movie. “Above the Line: My Wild Oats Adventure” is an interesting account of all the problems that occurred during the making of this film. In it, Shirley MacLaine talks about her relationship with the other actors and crew, her makeup and wardrobe, and the fact that she taped her neck to look younger since she doesn’t want to have plastic surgery.
There are fun details in this book as well as MacLaine’s usual past life discoveries. She writes about the Canary Islands and how it is thought that this is where Atlantis was and where it sank into the sea. The book is basically two stories in one: the story of making the movie and MacLaine’s story of Atlantis and past lives and history of the planet.
“Wild Oats” is often whacky yet still a little endearing. My recommendation is to read the book (or listen to MacLaine reading to you) either before or after you see the movie – preferably before. They definitely go together. And if you read the book first, you’ll get more laughs out of the scenes than if you don’t. Shirley MacLaine pulls no punches when it comes to all the backstage drama.
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