First Watch: The Woman in Red (1984)

This “First Watch” review covers the 1984 comedy film The Woman in Red starring Gene Wilder, Kelly LeBrock, Gilda Radner, and Charles Grodin. The movie was directed by Wilder and is based on the 1976 French film Pardon Mon Affaire. It was a financial success at the box office, earning $25 million on a $9 million budget.

Critically, The Woman in Red had its ups and downs. Roger Ebert gave the film one star stating that:

“The only reason to watch the film is an occasional glimpse of the stunningly beautiful model Kelly Le Brock making her feature-film debut as the femme fatale…”

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Watch Siskel and Ebert’s full review of the film:

The upside to the critical acclaim really had nothing to do with the story or actors, but the soundtrack. The film won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song, Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

My only previous experience with The Woman in Red is Stevie Wonder’s song. I have seen the soundtrack on LP and noticed that it was essentially a Stevie Wonder album. So I guess that was part of my motivation to watch the movie…and Kelly LeBrock.

The Plot

The Woman in Red follows Teddy Pierce, a happily married advertising executive who is infatuated with a beautiful woman named Charlotte, after he sees her in the parking garage at his office. Teddy tries to meet Charlotte, but keeps running into obstacles. For instance, he attempts to invite Charlotte to dinner by phone when she visits his office but mistakenly invites his coworker Ms. Milner.

Going through dysfunctional relationships themselves, Teddy’s friends don’t seem to help his situation. Eventually they learn about his infatuation with the woman in red and help Teddy to go on a date with Charlotte.

Eventually, Teddy does succeed in meeting Charlotte. They go horseback riding together and even attend a party at Teddy’s relative’s house. Teddy is thrilled to be with Charlotte, but he also feels guilty about his infidelity.

Things come to a head when Teddy flies to California to spend the night together with Charlotte.

The Trailer


What I Liked

Outside of Kelly LeBrock, the supporting cast stole the show. Gilda Radner as the lonely co-worker who takes to Teddy’s misled advances was really great. As she learns, Teddy’s affections are not aimed at her, the down-right rage she invokes on Teddy really bring tension to the situation in a fun way.

I loved Teddy’s friends, especially Grodin. The blind guy in the bar gag was really funny. I also like how he comes to the rescue at the surprise party after being Teddy’s chauffeur on the date with Charlotte. His other friends were great as well, giving Teddy a bit of an outlet to voice his frustrations and also see what life is like after a marriage goes South. In reality, it was the wrong group to search for answers which again, just added gas to the tension fire and worked toward the overall premise of the film.

For her film debut, Kelly LeBrock sure didn’t hold much back (which included her robe at the apartment scene.) I was surprised at how much skin they allowed for a PG-13 movie, but she was definitely gifted enough to show it. Weird Science is the movie I associated her with the most and it’s pretty easy to see how she got that role. Outside of her sex appeal, I thought she acted well with this being her first major role.

What I Didn’t Like

Gene Wilder was his normally quirky self, but I just wasn’t into his character in the film. The over-the-top excuses and trying to fool his wife to get away from the house was too obvious for even the most trusting spouse in the world.

I also wasn’t too sure what to make of Teddy’s wife. They played her more as the trusting and oblivious spouse at the beginning of the movie and then there is this whole turn to the dark side. Teddy finds a gun in the bedroom drawer, she is having a fling with this young kid (maybe her daughter’s boyfriend?) and then seems to be a very jealous spouse. Just didn’t work for me.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed The Woman in Red but I doubt I’ll be watching this one again. There are so many more Gene Wilder movies I’d punch up before circling back to this one. And as I mentioned earlier, Weird Science is where I’d get my Kelly LeBrock fix. This movie wasn’t a waste of time by any means but not memorable enough to add to my watchlist even on an annual basis.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Find me on Letterboxd. Read more First Watch reviews on The Retro Network.

About Jason Gross 557 Articles
'80s Kid, '90s Grad, and '00s Dad. I've been writing and podcasting about 1980s pop culture since 2011 at my website. I collect vinyl, cassingles, '80s comics, Batman memorabilia, and all things Mobile Armored Strike Kommand.

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