This 1988 comedy drama has one of the oddest pedigrees of any film, being directed by Rip Torn, written by Harry Nilsson and starring Whoopi Goldberg. Goldberg plays Vashti Blue (what an astonishing name!) a somewhat demented actress who’s main contact with the outside world is via her telephone, hence the title of the movie. She is closed of and lonely, living in a self imposed prison with of all things an owl and a goldfish. You can get the idea straight away that this is no ordinary movie and Vashti is no ordinary person., through a series of interactions with the faceless voices on the other end of the line, we start to get an idea of the kind of person she really is as layers of the onion are stripped away to reveal the heartbreaking truth about this complex character.
It goes without saying that this is Whoopi Goldberg’s show and she turns in the performance of a lifetime as Vashti. It’s impossible to take your eyes off her for the entire movie which is just as well since the piece is practically a one hander. It was adapted originally from a stage play and it betrays its origins as a very theatrical piece but is all the stronger for that. The script is warn hearted and thought provoking but also packs an emotional punch. Occasionally Vashti receives a visitor and she seems to get a great deal of enjoyment out of arguing with her neighbour who is doing her best to get her deported. Goldberg really shines in the scenes when Vashti has to switch character quickly, almost schizophrenically and you never once find yourself taken out of the movie by her performance which is judged to perfection and is very realistic, despite some of the odd things that happen in her life.
If you have ever felt isolated and lonely then this movie will speak to you on a very deep level. Despite the subject matter, the film is also loaded with laughs, giving Goldberg the chance to show off her comic talents once more. A real gem of a film, this is another one that can be watched again and again and the viewer will get something different out of it each time.
Director: Rip Torn
Writers: Harry Nilsson (screenplay), Terry Southern (screenplay)
Stars: Whoopi Goldberg, Severn Darden and Elliott Gould
Release Date: 22 January 1988 (USA)