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‘Outrageous Fortune’ (R)

By Paul Attanasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 23, 1987

In "Outrageous Fortune," Lauren (Shelley Long) is an aspiring actress who, for years, has done little acting but much aspiring, courtesy of her parents' largesse. Sandy (Bette Midler), also an actress, has taken the low road, appearing in "Ninja Vixens" -- she is of the genus "broad," species "tough." As both of them discover, they are dating the same man, Michael (Peter Coyote).

But that's not all.

They think Michael's dead. He's not dead. They think Michael's a schoolteacher. He's not a schoolteacher. He is, in fact, a CIA agent. Isn't everybody? Isn't everybody, in fact, a rogue CIA agent who has captured an experimental virus that could defoliate the entire state of California while leaving Spago completely intact? And isn't every e'migre' acting teacher a KGB agent well on his way to becoming a rogue KGB agent?

Needless to say, such rarefied screen writing calls for the peerless talents of Arthur Hiller, a director with the comic timing of a tax auditor.

"Outrageous Fortune" calls for a number of bravura character bits by Long, as Lauren draws on her years of training to "act" her way out of all sorts of madcap scrapes. Long struggles (oh, say it) manfully with the role, but the amount of effort betrays her -- even at their best, they seem like bravura character bits. And Midler generates considerable audience affection along the lines of, "There but for the grace of God go I."

"Outrageous Fortune" is rated R, and contains profanity and sexual situations.

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