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Film / Who's That Girl

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Who's That Girl is a 1987 American Screwball Comedy film directed by James Foley and starring Madonna and Griffin Dunne.

It's about a street-smart woman named Nikki Finn (Madonna), who was framed for a murder she didn't commit, and who four years later is out on parole and being escorted to the bus station by Louden Trott (Dunne), a tax attorney who's working for the wealthy Simon Worthington (Joe McMartin) and is engaged to be married to his daughter Wendy (Haviland Morris).

This film provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Louden's reaction to Nikki's "Knock Knock" Joke at the apartment interview. He quickly covers it up and gives her a Death Glare in warning.
  • Amusing Injuries: Raoul and Benny fall from a parking garage with only lots of dirt covering their car.
  • And This Is for...: Louden to Simon during the Sword Fight:
    Louden: That's for the four years you stole from Nikki...and this is for me. (Steps on Simon's crotch)
  • Animated Credits Opening: Which provides part of the backstory behind Nikki's situation. Can be seen here.
  • The Antichrist: What Louden thinks of Nikki at one point in the film.
    Louden: Just tell me, I won't be upset. I really just want to know. Are you the Anti-Christ? You can tell me, really. I won't be mad. You are, aren't you?
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Nikki is a Motor Mouth whirlwind of chaos who can't sit still, and seldom focuses on any one task for more than a few minutes. Notably, during the final Sword Fight between Louden and Simon, she tells Louden to hurry up because she's bored. About the one thing that can hold her attention is her desire for vengeance.
  • Badass Boast: Nikki to Simon on the car phone, while she's firing a gun into the air.
    Nikki: I am Nikki Finn, and I will not be denied. I will know vengeance.
  • Badass Bookworm: Louden, a tax attorney with fencing skills.
  • Big Bad/Corrupt Corporate Executive: Simon Worthington.
  • Bouquet Toss: Wendy at the wedding when she goes off to be with Buck, which the bridesmaids still bound to each other catch together.
  • Boyfriend Bluff: Nikki has to pose as Louden's fiancée Wendy during an interview to obtain an apartment after the real Wendy is kidnapped by Raoul and Benny.
  • Call-Back: To "Into The Groove" in the intro scene song "Causing A Commotion"
    It doesn't matter if you win or lose,
    It's how you play the game, so get into the groove.
  • Cat Scare: A big cat scare, as at the beginning of the film, the delivery cyclist bolts right off the docks when he finds out what kind of cat he has to deliver. It then becomes a Running Gag throughout the film with Murray freaking out Louden, random carjackers, Benny and Raoul, and various other unfortunates to cross his path.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the film Louden polishes a fencing trophy, and he mentions having fenced to Nikki when they're hiding after the police raid on the gun runner. Louden later shows off his sword-arm twice: Once to drive off Raoul and Benny, and later in the climax against Simon himself.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Most of the cast, actually. Nikki's ditzy, carefree demeanor is the most obvious example, but Mr. Bell is a philanthropist who operates a wildlife refuge on the roof of his building, Wendy and her mother both lean into Upper-Class Twit, and even the two detectives following Nikki's hurricane of chaos have their moments.
  • Clear My Name: Nikki's quest throughout the entire film is to find out who set her up to be framed as a murderess.
  • Disposable Fiancée: Wendy, who gets dumped by Louden at the wedding when he confesses his love for Nikki. No big loss for her, though; she gets herself hooked up with the delivery guy Buck.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: A cyclist passing by Nikki during the Animated Credits Opening, who in his distraction knocks over a clothing rack.
  • The Ditz:
    • While Nikki is much sharper than she lets on, Wendy is just about full-on this trope.
    • Buck is very big. And very stupid. At one point he helpfully tells Wendy and Louden he witnessed the theft of Wendy's mother's car, and that he wrote down the license plate. Of their own car. Even Wendy calls him out on it. For his part, Buck is so cheerfully dumb he admits freely admits he couldn't be any dumber when asked.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Nikki, once she gets a hold of Louden's car. It's not just because she's out of practice after four years in prison. Nikki's bad driving is what got her busted in the first place; she ran a stop, and the cops found Johnny's body in the trunk when she was pulled over.
  • Dude, Where's Our Car?: Louden's car gets stolen by a couple of carjackers when Louden and Nikki are inside Cartier's, and Nikki's safety deposit box key ends up inside the box of one of Wendy's bridal shower gifts.
  • Feet-First Introduction: How Nikki appears at Mr. Bell's apartment to show She Cleans Up Nicely.
  • Five-Finger Discount: How Nikki acquires things, whether they be cassette tapes or expensive cigarette holders. As a show of her street smarts, she arranges her thefts by planting merchandise on some random schlub to set off the alarm so she can escape while security is distracted.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Nikki when she gets a hold of a gun and Louden's car phone and talks to Simon, not knowing who she was really talking to.
  • Frameup: As seen in the Animated Credits Opening, Raoul and Benny kill Nikki's boyfriend Johnny, stuff him in the back of Nikki's car, and make it look like Nikki had killed him in a crime of passion.
  • Genius Ditz: Nikki. Although she acts rather ditzy, she is very street-smart and she knows how to tame wild animals. She's also the one who pieces together that Simon had Johnny killed upon recovering the evidence.
  • Graceful Loser: Other than her initial (and understandable) reaction to being jilted at the altar, Wendy takes losing Louden to Nikki surprisingly well. It helps that her own faithfulness is seriously in question, and that she ends up with hunky delivery guy Buck at the end.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: The title track over the end credits, "Who's That Girl," randomly breaks into Spanish during the chorus.
  • Groin Attack: Louden to Simon during his fencing duel at the wedding.
  • I Have Your Wife: Raoul holds Wendy hostage and has Louden surrender Nikki in exchange for his fiancée, which he does, only for Nikki to soon whistle for Murray the cougar to come and put a scare in Raoul and Benny before they drive off with her.
  • Improvised Weapon: Louden uses a car antenna as a fencing weapon when he duels with Raoul on top of a car in a parking garage.
  • Inspector Javert: The police detectives Bellson and Doyle, who follow Nikki around town. It's a bit more sympathetic than most examples, as they're not after Nikki, nor even actively pursuing her. Bellson merely suspects that there's more to her boyfriend's killing and he's keeping tabs on her in hopes she leads them to the real mastermind. It turns out he's completely right: Nikki finds evidence that Simon was in league with hitmen who killed Johnny, and had Nikki framed to cover up his illicit business dealings.
  • Jerkass: Simon. He's a crook who had Nikki's boyfriend murdered and her framed for it, and a controlling and elitist snob who uses a prenuptial agreement to intrude on Louden and Wendy's sex life.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: The camera pans away from Bellson and Doyle, the two male police detectives, kissing each other in the car to Benny who is tied up on the roof of the car.
  • "Knock Knock" Joke:
    • Nikki drops one during the apartment interview at an awkward moment. Louden thinks it's Actually Pretty Funny before shooting her a Death Glare.
    • Louden turns it around on her at the end, using an Incredibly Lame Pun to tell Nikki he loves her. She invokes a "Shut Up" Kiss to interrupt a second.
      Louden: Knock knock.
      Nikki: Who's there?
      Louden: Olive.
      Nikki: (Amused) Olive, who?
      Louden: I love you, Nikki Finn.
      Nikki: Aren't you sweet.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Nikki is wild, carefree, and uninhibited, and completely turns stodgy Louden's life upside down, and helps him loosen up and find real joy in life.
  • Motor Mouth: Nikki can talk at a mile a minute. Especially when she wants to manipulate or put one over on someone. They spend more time trying to figure out what she said in the first place, rather than finding the logical holes in her story.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Buck the delivery guy. He gets a shirtless scene having oil rubbed on his muscles by Wendy and her bridesmaids.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Nikki is full 80s-vintage Madge. She spends much of the movie in a short skirt and fishnets, and at one point trades it in for a slinky silver gown with an Impossibly-Low Neckline.
    • The girl in Mr. Bell's rooftop preserve, who meows and growls, and pretty much dresses in a Fur Bikini.
  • Nice Guy: Buck is probably the single nicest person in the entire movie. He's soft-spoken, polite, and helpful. He's also dumb as a rock.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Simon. His biggest example in the film is the prenuptial agreement he asks Louden to sign, which has a clause that Louden will not inherit a single penny of anything Simon has if he ever dies and has an extensive and amply diagrammed section of sex positions Simon forbids Louden to use with his daughter.
  • Only Sane Man: Louden is pretty much the only member of the cast who's not a Cloud Cuckoolander, though even he has his moments.
  • Panthera Awesome: The rare cougar (a Patagonian felis concolor) Louden has to deliver to Mr. Bell, to which Nikki takes a liking and tames, calling him "Murray". The cougar comes to Nikki's rescue a few times in the movie when she whistles for him, and he and his mate even follow after their bus at the end.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Nikki's dead boyfriend in the Animated Credits Opening, which is how she gets framed.
  • Punny Name: Louden Clear, given by Nikki when she had him admitted into the hospital.
  • Really Gets Around: Wendy. A Running Gag throughout the film is that various taxi drivers have said that they "had her in the cab once".
  • Running Gag: Random taxi drivers mentioning having Wendy in their cab once, and doing favors for Louden because of it.
  • Screwball Comedy: A modern-day iteration of the genre that even features a subplot with a big cat being delivered to a wealthy Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Louden's reaction to Nikki in her silver gown at Mr. Bell's apartment. Not that she wasn't Ms. Fanservice before, but she goes from street punk to bombshell in one Feet-First Introduction.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Simon jokes about not needing to bring out the shotgun when Louden shows up on time for the wedding.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: The last line of the movie is Nikki telling Louden to shut up and kiss her.
    Louden: Knock knock.
    Nikki: Louden?
    Louden: Yeah?
    Nikki: Will you do me a favor?
    Louden: Yeah?
    Nikki: Shut up and kiss me.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: At the wedding, Nikki interrupts at that point to reveal that (1) Simon Worthington is a criminal who had Nikki's boyfriend murdered and her framed for it in order to cover up his crimes, and (2) the wedding can't continue because the groom is in love with her.
  • Stag Party: Louden's excuse to Wendy is that he was attending his bachelor party the night before the wedding, when in actuality he spent the night in Mr. Bell's apartment with Nikki.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Suggested by one of the reporters who are trying to interview the bridesmaids being held captive by Raoul and Benny, to their disgust.
    Reporter: Have you developed a relationship with your captors? Do you find yourself physically attracted to them?
  • Straight Gay: The two police detectives, Bellson and Doyle, who were following after Nikki, who end up kissing each other by the end of the film.
  • Sword Fight: Louden and Simon, in which Louden defeats Simon by knocking the saber out of his hand.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • Raoul and Benny, the hitmen who Simon hired to kill Nikki's boyfriend after he found evidence of his crimes, and later pursue Nikki herself in order to recover it.
    • Bellson and Doyle, the police detectives keeping tabs on Nikki throughout the film. They get a Last-Minute Hookup at the end of the movie.
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: Nikki sets off the sprinkler system in an apartment building when she and Louden hide out in a utility closet and she moves the flame of a lit cigarette lighter near one of the sprinklers.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: The entire premise of Louden and Nikki's eventual hookup. Stolid, stodgy, anal-retentive Louden falls for wild, unbridled, street-smart Nikki. She helps him loosen up, and Louden helps ground and focus her.
  • Watch the Paint Job: Louden's car, a Rolls Royce borrowed from the Worthingtons with a very distinct car horn sound, which unfortunately gets damaged throughout the film and eventually falls apart at the Worthington estate during the wedding.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Although the wedding is called off when Louden confesses his love for Nikki, the passengers on the bus Nikki was riding on waste no time taking advantage of the food being served at the wedding.