Friday Favorites: Favorite Scene – Beetlejuice

Welcome to “Friday Favorites” which highlight some of my favorite movie-related things.

Whenever Halloween approaches, I always think of Beetlejuice.  Maybe it’s because I dressed up as the title character one year for Halloween, or because the movie fits in with the season so well.  And whenever I think of Beetlejuice, my mind immediately jumps to one particular scene.  It’s the scene, for me, that perfectly captures the essence of the film’s spirit, despite the fact that features none of the 3 lead actors of the film.  Take a look, and read on for my thoughts:

What scene did you think I was going to pick?

Catherine O’Hara is the reason this scene works.  She completely sells it, communicating so much with her facial expressions throughout the song.  Take a look at the very beginning.  She lets out with a loud “day-o” which she fully commits to, and by the 2nd one she has the most confused look on her face, as though she’s trying really hard to work out a logical explanation for why she suddenly burst into song.  As she continues she struggles between confusion, embarrassment, and participation in the song, and it’s all there on her face.  I especially love when she throws her arms up to start dancing when she sings “come Mr. tally man, tally me bananas”, and her eyes get really wide and she looks down at herself in shock, in disbelief at what she’s doing.  And then, by the end, she’s totally into it, after they do the bit where they all join hands and rock back and forth.  Go back and watch the clip again and just focus on her face.  It’s brilliant.

The rest of the cast does a great job, especially Jeffrey Jones with his “mighty deadly black tarantula” dance move.  But what’s really great is that even though the Maitlands (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) aren’t physically in the scene, you can feel their fingerprints all over it.  From the choice of Harry Belafonte music (which they listened to before they died) to their choice of scare tactic.  Adam and Barbara Maitland were very laid back in life, doing things spontaneously and having their own style.  It’s easy to imagine that they would choose to scare the Deetzes and their guests by interrupting their formal dinner party with calypso music and forcing them to dance and sing along.  It’s the sort of culture clash that’s at the heart of the film’s humor, and it fits perfectly into the Maitlands’ view of the Deetzes.  Add in the perfectly timed scare at the end, just as the group seems to have completely gotten over the fear of being possessed, and the scene couldn’t be any better.

Of course, nothing is what it seems in Beetlejuice, and the fact that the Maitlands’ plan doesn’t work fits right into that.  It’s such a clever twist, as the scheme seems to go perfectly and they’re so proud, only for Lydia to come up to tell them that her parents want them to come down, and we see the dinner party laughing about how fun the experience was.  There’s a lot more I could say about the film, and could probably fill the rest of the month with favorites only from Beetlejuice, but for now I’ll stop here.  It’s one of my favorite Tim Burton films, which is saying a lot considering that I love almost all of them (except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… holy crap that movie is bad).  But this scene in particular I could watch continuously on repeat.

What do you think?  Could Catherine O’Hara be any more awesome?  What’s your favorite scene from Beetlejuice?  What’s your favorite Tim Burton film?  What are you dressing up as for Halloween?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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