Dexter: Well, yes, as a matter of fact there is...
Ron Anderson: Then for fuck's sake talk to someone about it, will you? And sort it out before I sack you and hire a lobotomized monkey to play your role. Okay?
Dexter King (Goldblum) is a lovelorn American actor working in London. For the last six years he has played "The Tall Guy", a straight man to annoying, egotistical, and outright abusive stage comedian Ron Anderson (Rowan Atkinson). After commiserating with his nymphomaniac housemate (Geraldine James) he meets and falls in love with beautiful nurse Kate Lemon (Emma Thompson), and is so elated that he improvises onstage to the point that Anderson fires him for it. He fails a few auditions, but finally lands the role in a musical adaptation of The Elephant Man.
Referred to by critic Roger Ebert as a "sweet, whimsical and surprisingly intelligent comedy"; it has what is very likely the funniest and most unintentionally destructive bedroom scene in the history of film.
Tropes present in the film:
- Adam Westing: Rowan Atkinson plays Ron Anderson, a hyper-obnoxious version of himself.
- Adorkable: Well, it is Jeff Goldblum after all, especially when he's wearing Superman pyjamas. Emma Thompson isn't normally this trope; but she takes a good stab at it in this film.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Carmen suggests Dexter should be an utter bastard to women in order to become better at seducing them. This says more about her than women in general, and thankfully Dexter never tries this out.
- Bad Boss: Ron turns this Up to Eleven.
- Bifauxnen: Kate.
- Brutal Honesty: Kate breaks up with Dexter using this.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Dexter's failed audition for a Steven Berkoff play.Actor #1: [bristling with rage] Fack awf! [kicks chair over]Actor #2: [very aggressive, pointing at Actor #1] Fack awf yerself! [points at Dexter] And the same goes for yer friennnd! [kicks table over] FACK AWF!Dexter: [looks baffled; half-heartedly points at Actor #2] You fuck off. [looks helplessly at Steven Berkoff]
[cut to Dexter's agent's office]Dexter's Agent: He said he thought you lacked anger.Dexter: I dunno, I was pretty pissed off by the end.
- Comically Missing the Point: Dexter does this deliberately.Kate: Sorry about last night, I was very tired. I'm less tired now, though.Dexter: I'm not tired either.Kate: Great! Two people...on their own...in the middle of the afternoon...and not tired.
[Pause]Dexter: Ideal circumstances...for Scrabble.
[Cut to Dexter and Kate having extremely vigorous sex.]
- Deadpan Snarker: Kate Lemon. She is British after all.
- Destructo-Nookie: Kate's bedroom will never be the same.
- Dissonant Serenity: Being played by Jeff Goldblum means that Dexter tends to give this off all the time, even when he's angry.
- Fanservice: Emma Thompson has never been as naked ever again as she is in Kate and Dexter's sex scene.
- Fan Disservice: In-universe for Dexter as well as for the audience; with all the hairy middle-aged men walking around naked in Carmen's house.
- The aforementioned Destructo Nookie sex scene, in which a slice of buttered toast is at one point sticking to Kate's buttock.
- Genre Savvy: Kate gives the strong impression that she knows she's supposed to be the love interest in a romantic comedy. It verges on Amateur Sleuth, especially when she and Dexter get together long before the end of the film, and she subsequently figures out that he's cheating on her with Cheryl, purely from the way that, at the Elephant! post-show party, he fills Cheryl's champagne glass without asking her if she wants any, and she doesn't bother to thank him.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Amusingly averted with Ron Anderson, when Dexter's unhappiness causes him to fluff moments on stage:Ron Anderson: [softly] Listen, Dexter, is there something troubling you? Something that you would like to talk to someone about?Dexter: Well, yes, as a matter of fact there is.Ron Anderson: [snaps] Then for fuck's sake talk to someone about it, will you? And sort it out before I sack you and hire a lobotomized monkey to play your role. Okay?
- Kick the Dog: Ron does this as easily as breathing. The quote just above is a fine example of this.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Carmen, Dexter's flatmate. At one point she has four guys in her bed at the same time, but she's always willing to interrupt coitus to listen to Dexter's problems, even if her partners are a little less patient.
- Meet Cute: Dexter meets Kate in the hospital where she treats him for his hay fever, and then invents a fictitious trip to Morocco so that he can have an excuse to keep going back, to get vaccinations from her. This being a Richard Curtis script, it's more like a Meet Comically Inappropriate.Dexter: All these weeks I've been coming here, I've been wanting to ask you something. What I really want to know is, uh, what's your name?Kate: Kate Lemon. Horrid name.Dexter: No, no, not at all. Could have been worse. Could have been called Hitler, or Tampon, or something.
- What sells this moment is Kate's response: just by swivelling her eyes away from him for a second or so, she manages to convey "What the fuck?"
- My Girl Is a Slut: Kate's apparent easiness is part of her charm: she believes in having sex on a first date, because it's better than "our having ten expensive dinners if I already know I like you."
- Later:Dexter: Please? Just dinner and let me explain? I was a complete, total, utter idiot. I've learned my lesson. Totally. Utterly.Kate: Just dinner.Dexter: I promise.Kate: What...no sex at the end? [looks disappointed]
- Really Gets Around: Dexter's flatmate, Carmen. A Running Gag has her in bed with or on a date with with a different man in each scene, or sometimes several at the same time.
- Self-Deprecating Humor: Rowan Atkinson plays an exaggerated and obnoxious version of his stand-up stage persona; who is constantly name-dropping the royal family.Ron Anderson: Sorry I'm so late. Had some rather special guests at my show tonight. Difficult to tell the heir to the throne to bugger off because you've got a party to go to.
- Show Within a Show: Type 1. Dexter lands the lead role in a musical adaptation of The Elephant Man of all things, being performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Roger Ebert refers to it as "the funniest deliberately bad play in a movie since Mel Brooks' "Springtime for Hitler" in The Producers."
- He starts out playing a straight man in Ron Anderson's comedy revue.
- Stealth Insult: Ron gets a particularly nasty one in on Dexter during the opening night party of Elephant!.Ron: The word on the street is that your makeup is just excellent.
- Take That!: The Show Within a Show is a brilliant send-up of the modern musical. Several others are also poked fun at in this exchange between Dexter and his agent:Dexter: A musical of the Elephant Man? What's it called?
Mary: "Elephant", I think - with an exclamation mark, presumably.
Dexter: Pity the poor bastard who has to play the elephant.
Mary: Remember dearest, everyone thought Jesus Christ Superstar was a stupid idea.
Dexter: Jesus Christ Superstar was a stupid idea.Mary: True.
- The Musical: Parodied with Elephant! See Take That! above.
- Title Drop: Dexter's role in Ron Anderson's show is listed simply as "The Tall Guy". Being that it's the 6' 4.5" (1.94 m) Goldblum, it's certainly a physically descriptive title.
- Your Cheating Heart: What sets off the third act of the movie.