Turn Back Time: Queue Up Cher’s Greatest Roles
We celebrate the “Goddess of Pop.”
To call Cher an Icon is the understatement of the century. A tour de force for nearly 6 decades, the “Goddess of Pop” has reinvented herself more times than we can count. But don’t call her acting a ‘phase’: Cher’s Hollywood dreams started long before she teamed up with Sonny Bono, back when she was just a girl from the Valley. The whirlwind success of her singing career swept her off her diva-platformed feet, but she got her due 1982 with Robert Altman’s ‘Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”. With a role opposite Meryl and an Oscar under her belt, Cher proved she belonged on the silver screen and 1987 was really her year. Her soulful voice, free-spoken spirit and deadpan humor translate magically to her roles. Subsuming her mega-stardom into believable portrayals is no simple feat, and she rarely rings false. Her unfiltered twitter feed is case in point.
Cher’s ‘Here We Go Again’ Tour may be on hold, but we can “turn back time” to revisit her best, often under-appreciated, performances:
Come Back To The 5 And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
Cher made her Broadway debut in the stage version, directed by the masterful Robert Altman. The filmed ‘Jimmy Dean’ falls flat, but the single location is intimate and the cast is rock solid. The infallible Sandy Dennis, Kathy Bates and Karen Black also star in this tale of a James Dean fan club reuniting in a tiny Texas 5-and-dime store. Cher plays a small-town, big-dreaming waitress named Sissy with sass and heart.
The magic of Director Mike Nichols, Writer Nora Ephron and Co-stars Meryl Streep & Kurt Russell made the true story of a nuclear power whistleblower Karen Silkwood a slam dunk choice for Cher’s next role. The movie still holds up and Roger Ebert himself thought it amazing that “established movie stars like Streep, Russell and Cher could disappear so completely into the everyday lives of [their] characters”. Cher portrays Karen’s best friend and roommate Dolly who’s based on the real Dusty Ellis. The friendship between Karen and Dolly is the best part of the film, and Cher’s confession in one early morning scene makes the whole movie worth watching. Oh, and she was nominated for an Academy Award.
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Cher, Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeifer, Susan Sarandon…this is a cast so hot it’s a wonder the film didn’t melt out of its VHS tape. Three best friends all fall in love with the man of their dreams who just may be the devil incarnate. The friendship between the women is feminist, fun and thrilling. Directed by the visionary George Miller (Mad Max) with effects that are kooky and dated in the best way. Cher plays a woman more ‘like herself’ than previous roles, but still manages to keep it fresh and grounded.
Penned by the award-winning Eric Roth (Forrest Gump), this courtroom drama stars Cher as an overworked lawyer with a client who is deaf, mute and potentially wrongly accused. Dennis Quaid and Cher team up to get to the bottom of a political cover-up through a tight plot, with a real twist at the end. The chemistry between Quaid and Cher is woefully lacking, but the smoldering Liam Neeson more than makes up for it. His communication with Cher, sans words, is everything.
Cher and Nicolas Cage get an A+ in chemistry. The passion between the two in John Patrick Shanley’s biting rom-com is a live wire, fritzing with morbid humor. Cher, as the widowed Italian-American Loretta, is whip-smart and heartbreaking. She’s firing on all cylinders here, and she won an Oscar for Best Actress to prove it. Rip open the windows and pour yourself a Chianti, this one will have you howling.
Would it even be a 90’s movie without Winona? Her performance as a devout-but-angsty teen c. 1960 is one of her best ‘outsider’ roles and, while not a box office hit, was well-received. Cher shines as her headstrong, unconventional mother and Christina Ricci makes an endearing onscreen debut. This riff on a classic coming-of-age tale has unexpected pizzaz and Cher’s costume as the eponymous mermaid is a 90’s RuPaul dream.
If These Walls Could Talk (1996)
Made-for-TV movies about abortion are not an easy sell, but Demi Moore and Cher pushed their star-powered weight to get this well-received HBO film off the ground. It chronicles the stories of different women wrestling with their right to choose in 1952, ’74 and ‘96. Cher directed the ‘1996’ segment, starring Anne Heche and Jada Pinkett Smith, and cast herself as the Abortion Clinic Doctor (seriously, what can’t she do?). Moments may veer into melodrama, but the importance of its subject matter no doubt drew Sissy Spacek, Catherine Keener and other notable actors to the project. It was the highest-rated film in HBO history when it premiered and is still, sadly, a relevant watch today.