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Michael (1996, John Travolta, Andie MacDowell)

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The financial backers of this romantic comedy about an angel with an attitude were initially unconvinced about casting John Travolta in the title role. But when the Pulp Fiction star proved a box office draw in Get Shorty things suddenly didn’t seem such a gamble.

Nora Ephron – who’d previously been responsible for writing one of the funniest films of the ’80s, When Harry Met Sally – assumed directorial duties here (she’d previously directed Mixed Nuts and the phenomenally popular Sleepless In Seattle ) and went on to shoot one of the year’s most popular comedies, You’ve Got Mail.

William Hurt stars as tabloid reporter Frank Quinlan, a natural born cynic whose scepticism is about to be questioned when he’s given a seemingly trite assignment. His editor, Vartan Malt (Bob Hoskins), orders him to cover a story about an elderly woman who claims to have an angel living with her. To help him, Quinlan is given an inept journalist (Robert Pastorelli) who only keeps his job because he owns the paper’s mascot dog, Sparky, and a newcomer, Dorothy Winters (Andie MacDowell), who claims to be an expert in ‘angelogy’.

The trio head off for Iowa with orders to bring the angel back to Chicago: if they don’t succeed, Malt will claim Sparky as his own. When they arrive in the small town, they meet Pansy (Jean Stapleton), who introduces them to the eponymous Michael (Travolta). Much to their surprise, although Michael looks slovenly and overweight, he also sports a pair of wings that are distinctly angelic. When Pansy dies suddenly of a heart attack, Michael agrees to accompany the journalists back to Chicago, on one condition: that they drive. The foursome embark on an extremely eventful journey.

Angels-on-Earth have always been a popular genre, although arguably never more so than in the ’90s. As well as A Life Less Ordinary and City Of Angels, Dogma featured Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as a pair of murderous messengers of God. Michael, however, tops them all for containing the most memorable and unlikely angel of them all.

production details
USA | 105 minutes | 1996

Director: Nora Ephron
Script: Delia Ephron, Nora Ephron, Peter Dexter, Jim Quinlan,

cast
Teri Garr as Judge Esther Newberg
William Hurt as Frank Quinlan
John Travolta as Michael
Jean Stapleton as Pansy Milbank
Andie MacDowell as Dorothy Winters
Bob Hoskins as Vartan Malt
Robert Pastorelli as Huey Driscoll
Wallace Langham as Bruce Craddock
Joey Lauren Adams as Anita
John Hussey as Minister