I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987) Movie Script

[knocking ]
Hello, hello, hello.
Testing. One, two, three.
My name is Polly Vandersma
and I'm a Girl Friday.
Well, actually,
I became a Person Friday
a couple of years ago -
didn't change the job very much.
Anyways, it all started
when the agency called me
for another temp job.
They don't call that often
'cause l... guess
I'm not very good at it.
One guy even said that I was...
[ whispering ]:
Oh, what did he say?
He said that
I was organizationally impaired.
It looked like it was going
to be kind of an interesting job -
or at least, a lot more interesting
than those accounting firms
and that stupid toothpaste factory.
My new boss was a curator.
Bonjour. Have a seat.
The thing that I'll
always remember about her,
was her voice.
She had a French
accent on everything she said.
She would say to me, "Type this, Polly",
only she'd say, "Type this, Polly",
Like it just sounded just like poetry.
Well, I mean not quite, but you know.
But you know,
the Curator was pretty amazing in general.
She was so serious even when she laughed.
I mean, I could tell
right away that she was like those people
you see in restaurant windows sometimes,
and they are always talking and laughing
and inter... you know... facing.
And... Like a ping pong game.
And I always loved that because...
I guess I was never so terrific
at talking and everything.
Well, I'm not sure
how long I'll be using you.
Oh, that'll be just fine.
Excuse me?
I mean...
for as however long you need me
would be appropriate.
Well, I have a meeting right now.
Why don't we call it a day
and start tomorrow?
- At nine.
- Nine?
Oh, nine would be tremendous.
Uh... okay.
Thank you.
[ Polly's practising
to say "bonjour". ]
Bonjour to you.
Church Gallery, may I help you.
I live by myself,
I always have,
ever since my parents died
when I was 21.
In the 10 years since then -
I'm 31 now -
I've had a couple of, you know,
I could never really...
talk to them about all the things
I think about sometimes,
and all the things I've seen.
So I guess that
makes me a spinster or something,
and an unsuccessful career woman.
But I'm pretty much a gal on the go.
And I've always had this hobby
and that keeps me pretty busy.
I kind of get a kick out of taking
pictures of things that I like, you know.
[ music playing ]
Take your phone call, it's fine.
Bye. Really, it's nothing.
[ screaming ]
[ music playing ]
Holy molly!
[ loud buzzing ]
[ loud keystroking ]
Oh, don't look at it, okay?
It' s not very good.
"Thank you for the information
on your line of surveillance systems.
We would lick
to confirm our agreement."
Lick? that's lovely, Polly, but
I don't think it'll be necessary.
Blah, blah, blah...
X79 wireless remote video camera,
monitor, and playback...
blah, blah, blah...
Cost, blah, blah, blah...
Expect... delivery in one geek.
I guess I shouldn't laugh.
Well, you know, typing isn't
exactly my strong point.
No, I guess not.
I'm sure you have other talents.
[Polly]: I learned a lot of things
about the Curator.
Well, sometimes
we would just work.
But she loved to talk to me
and tell me things
that had happened to her
and what she said.
Her parents bought her the gallery
with money they made in chocolate,
in the bittersweet market,
in Switzerland since before the war.
She was...
she was like a fairytale.
I mean,
she went to school all over the world
and talked to
the kind of people who write books.
I mean,
she even wrote a book herself once.
And she loved to talk about art things -
Like whose work
shows talent and whose doesn't,
and whose work
shows "acute awareness".
At first I thought she meant like
"a cute face", "a cute awareness".
And... whose work came from
"half-lives, half-lived."
Isn't that great?
I mean... that's
terrible but you know what I mean.
Oh, I just loved how she talked,
I wanted her to teach me everything.
Too bad it all went so wrong.
Attach to the camera
the motor generator board
and mount the cover...
I think it's already put together.
I think they did it for us -
it's fine.
Well, let's do it then.
I'll go check it.
- It works.
- Good.
- Hi.
- Sorry I'm late.
That's okay.
I love it here,
I come here all the time.
It's really nice.
- Oh, it feels so good!
- Yeah.
So, Polly, there's something
I'd like to speak to you about.
Go ahead.
When I called
the Person Friday Agency,
they warned me about
your past performance.
Can I take your order?
Yes, I'll have some Sake.
Gozaimashita Sake.
Oh, I'll just have some milk.
Cow's milk.
And, uh, I'd like to order now.
I'll have number 12 please.
I think I'll just have...
number 13.
Thank you.
They said a couple
of previous employers
had mentioned your... distractedness.
Oh, really?
Well, you know, I can work on it.
The first step in solving
a problem is recognizing it.
Yes, I believe that.
Thank you.
So, Polly, what are your plans?
For what?
Well, for your future, your career.
Oh! I don't have any.
Wouldn't you like to have...
a full-time job instead of
temporary work all the time, no?
Well, what do you want then?
A fork.
I mean from life, Polly.
I'm sorry.
Well, I haven't really decided yet.
I used to want to be a dancer,
a singer or something,
but, uh...
Well, I really like being
a temporary secretary for you.
So what do you want from life?
Most things, I guess.
Universal respect,
eternal youth,
passion that never fades.
The regular, you know.
I guess I'd like never to get
neurotic about growing old
and someday, make something
breathtakingly beautiful
that lasts forever and all time.
And, Polly,
I like having you around.
I can concentrate with you there.
I'd like you to be
my permanent part-time secretary.
What do you think?
I would love to be your secretary.
[ classical music playing ]
[ classical music playing ]
[ music stops ]
- Hi, can I help you?
- Yeah. Is Gabrielle in?
Who is it?
That's okay.
[ door closing ]
You moved here? Why?
I like Toronto.
I want to work here.
There are some fascinating people here.
And you're among them.
I thought you might have
some work for me.
Some secretarial shit, or something.
You're too talented for that.
Besides, I just hired somebody.
And, Mary, I'm not sure it's
a good idea for me to see you a lot.
Are you seeing someone?
I've been seeing this guy for a while.
Yes, for a while.
Very gifted but then...
he suddenly lost it,
and seems to blame me for it.
I guess nothing lasts forever.
- You talent fucker.
- Thanks, dear.
So why don't you want to see me?
Afraid you'll be accused of
being a "lesbyterian"?
In my line of work, I come
into contact with a lot of...
Baptist ministers who would
really give me a hard time.
You know that's not the point.
I'm too old for you.
I'm wise beyond my years.
And I'm foolish beyond mine.
I guess it was all
a little too delirious before.
You prefer a tepid romance?
I'm getting a lot more done now.
- Sublimation!
- Productivity.
I miss making love with you.
Mary, don't.
I'm at a critical,
very critical point, right now.
I can't lose focus.
I'm not blaming you
but none of it seemed as
important when I was with you.
Sorry, Gabrielle.
I understand.
I do.
I just think everybody needs someone,
especially if they're as
insanely ambitious as you are.
[Polly]: I think I kind of fell
in love with the Curator.
I know that love is
a pretty strong word
when you're talking about another
woman and she's not your mother,
but there you go.
I... I don't think I wanted kissing
and all that stuff.
I just, I just loved her.
I guess I'll be leaving for the day.
Yeah, sure.
Have fun.
Gosh, you know, sometimes I think
my head is like a gas tank,
you have to be really
careful what you put into it 'cause
it might just affect the whole system.
Isn't life
the strangest thing you've ever seen?
I know, Clive.
His work is sometimes
thematically unresolved, but...
there's no question his boyish
bravado has a certain charm.
But charm isn't enough, Gabrielle.
His technique isn't nearly
as muscular as his imagery.
Oh, you're not looking
beyond the realist camouflage.
Look at this one.
Now it is true that he is somewhat
incapacitated by his emotions,
but there is blood in there, Clive.
Uh-huh, uh-huh.
Oh yes!
New York is wild
for his oblique pragmatism.
- New York?
- Yes.
Well, look at this.
No flabby euphemisms here.
Here for example.
The static structure is offset
by his whimsical
sociological references.
Even a classical reference or two.
I am certain he's going to be
a terribly important artist, Clive,
There is a hopefulness
in his contextural destruction...
No question.
...and the lack of resolution
of his themes almost adds
to a vaguely literal internal
transformation of his subject.
- It's an external transformation.
- Internal.
- External - look at the lemon!
- What about the fork?
- Oh, the fork is irrelevant.
- You might be right.
- I guess there is a face.
- Exactly.
- Yes, you're right.
- Yes.
The face does it.
Well, Gabrielle, I'll talk to
the committee at the National Institute.
I think it's a wise decision, Clive.
[Polly]: No, no, no, no, no...
I think a relativist mentality
would resolve a lot of conflicts,
politically, aesthetically,
and even in terms of relationships.
If everyone believed
that there was no "right" way,
that no human being has
a direct communication, if you will,
with the omnipotent,
then the world would be
a much kinder place.
[Gabrielle]: Well, how does this
relativism relate to relationships?
[Polly]: Interesting question.
I believe that gender is irrelevant
in matters of the heart.
Desire follows the heart.
Freud had an interesting theory,
one of the few to which I ascribe.
Ironically, he called it
"polymorphous perversity",
the idea being that all children
are born in a state of being open to
any sexual or affectional preference
and that society pushes us
one way or another.
Whereas he called this "perversity",
I maintain that it is
a most natural state;
a state we must actively cultivate.
Polly, you sound so...
Intelligent and enlightened?!
Well it is, after all, my vision.
Good morning, Church Gallery.
May I help you?
Ah yes. Just a minute please.
It's for you.
Yes, Carl.
Yes, yes. Another one.
It's on Sunday.
I'm having a little soiree
and you're more than welcome.
Bring a friend if you'd like.
Yes. See you then.
People insist on reminding me.
Of what?
That I'm dying.
Polly, I'd like you to...
call the people that have
a mark here beside their names...
- When?
- Anytime. This afternoon.
Tomorrow. It's okay.
I'm not in that much of a hurry.
- But what's the matter with you?
- Nothing.
Why are you dying?
[ laughing ]
Pauvre enfant, I'm not dying.
It's just a figure of speech.
I meant it's my birthday.
I'm just getting older, you know.
We're all dying all the time,
that sort of thing, that's all.
Oh, Polly.
I'd love you to come to my party.
- Oh well, hello, Polly.
- Hi.
Glad you could drop in.
- Can I help you.
- Oh, sure.
I'll just get the door.
Well, everyone's left already...
Almost everyone.
I'm really sorry I'm late. I had
a little trouble finding your place.
Don't worry about it, it's nothing
really. You can open it later.
Thank you.
It's very...
- Yeah.
Well, let's sit down.
- Hello.
- Hello, Mary.
Uh, this is...
- Have a seat.
- Thank you.
- Can I get you a drink, Polly?
- Oh, yes please.
What would you like?
I think I'll have a rum.
- Straight up?
- Oh, whenever.
- Thank you.
- You're welcome.
Well, cheers.
- Well, I guess...
- Do you...
- I'm sorry, go ahead.
- No, it's okay.
I was going to say, I guess you had
a lot of people here tonight.
- Yeah.
- Sorry I'm late.
Well, girls, I'm going to bed.
Goodnight, Mary.
Bonsoir, Mary.
Don't stay up too late.
Happy birthday.
Thank you.
Why are you so sad?
Why? Good question.
I'm so lucky, you know.
I have enough friends,
enough money.
I have this gallery thing happening
and I have a lover who loves me.
Wanting more is greed, isn't it?
Actually, you're the one who's lucky.
You don't need any more
than you have, do you?
You're contented with the fact
that you'll never be...
the best Person Friday in the history
of Western Civilization,
aren't you?
I've never really thought
about that but...
Oh God, to have such simple needs.
I don't mean to be patronizing.
Do you know what it's like...
to want one thing all your life
and know all your life
that you'll never have it?
What thing?
Oh, it's stupid. Don't ask.
Talent, Polly.
A simple gift.
I don't want to die with my body.
Whose body do...
To make something beautiful is
to be beautiful forever, isn't it?
Wouldn't you like that?
God, I get pompous when I'm drunk!
Here, let me help you.
What do you want to make
that's so beautiful?
One painting,
this big...
that's good.
unequivocally, universally good.
A painting?
I hate resenting
someone else's talents.
You paint?
Can I tell you something?
I submitted some work
to an adult class,
a painting class.
Just a stupid little course
full of housewives doing landscapes.
You know, the sort of situation where
I wouldn't have to feel embarrassed.
- And you know what?
- What?
Last week they rejected me.
They called my stuff "simple-minded".
But if you get a kick out of it...
Oh, yes!
I get a big kick out of it...
in the stomach!
Could I ask you something?
Could I please see your painting?
See, it's true.
You don't want much, do you?
- Oh, Polly.
- Please.
why not?
I'm drunker than l... I thought.
You made these?
No, Polly, I stole them.
They're so...
they're so...
[ thundering ]
[Polly]: I just couldn't believe
how shy she was
about her golden paintings.
I mean, they were so,
so beautiful.
I mean, I don't know very much
about art things,
but I thought they were the most
tremendous things in the whole world.
I didn't even have
to pretend to like them.
They were like real magic.
So I had this idea
that I'd send her my pictures
under a pseudo-name.
I just thought
she'd kind of like them.
[ music playing ]
- Well?
- Well what?
Well, what do you think?
Oh, mon dieu, how -
that's not... Polly, no!
You shouldn't be so modest.
I'm not the only one who loves it.
What do you mean?
Carl dropped by here yesterday,
when you were sick,
to talk to you about your article
for the magazine...
He saw it?
Oh, my God!
What did he say?
He didn't know what to say,
he loved it so much he was speechless.
Yeah, sure. Oh, Polly.
What's his number?
Polly, Polly, Polly...
Hi Carl, it's me.
Listen, I hear you saw
a painting here yesterday.
Well, you weren't supposed to.
Well, it isn't ready...
Carl, now don't overstate the case,
you'll lose credibility.
When?... Hold on!
When is it going to press?
Carl, you can't write a review
of just one painting,
there's no context...
What did you write?
No, you, you can't see more.
There is no more to see.
Just leave it alone, all right?
"This single piece attests
to the birth of a master talent.
It's exquisitely wrought
equal-li-brium of equivalent opposites
maintains an organic integrity
of trans-luck-ant...
- Translucent.
-...structural elements.
It's vibrant tonality
is counterbalanced
by a rigorous
but subdued rationality."
"As in all her greatest writing...
one feels here a fusion
of the real with the visionary,
and this one painting, through
it's inner glow and deep harmonies,
comes closer to the effect of music
than any painting this critic
has ever seen, felt or heard."
- Another good one.
- Polly, can you get the mail?
Yes, I know.
Thank you, Polly.
The Times is sending
someone tomorrow...
It's big, Mary.
I don't know if I'm up to it.
I'm not sure about this whole idea.
Okay, I'll meet you there. Bye.
Send a note to little, uh...
Penelope here.
You know,
a thank-you-but-no-thank-you letter.
Be nice but don't encourage her.
She just doesn't have it.
God, look at this!
The trite made flesh!
Polly, did you hear me?
Yes, I did.
They show some potential though,
don't you think?
No. It's not going anywhere.
It's completely simple-minded.
[ phone ringing ]
I'm not here.
I'll be painting and
I can't be reached. All right?
That's just fine.
Hello, this is Polly.
I can't come in today.
Yeah, I'm sick.
I don't know, I'm just sick.
Yeah, I will.
I wasn't really sick,
except for my heart.
You know, how it can feel, uh...
sort of all red and swollen
especially late at night?
Do you know what I mean?
You don't care how I felt.
You just want
to know what happens, don't you?
Hi, Polly. Gabrielle out?
No, she's hiding under her desk.
- Aren't we cheerful today?
- Yup.
What's this?
The trite made flesh.
- That's a little harsh, isn't it?
- It's no good.
Polly, why do you have to judge it?
Can't you just like it or
not like it and leave it at that?
It doesn't matter if I like it
or not, it's still no good.
Well, what's good?
What if it's a shot of someone this
photographer just loves to distraction.
Isn't that a good thing?
Like how you love the Curator?
The Cur...
Oh, Gabrielle!
Yeah, I love her...
a lot.
Like a mother or a sister?
Like a lover.
Sorry, Mary, just came back
from Lingaard's place.
Oh, that pompous ass.
Well, he can be as pompous
as he wants
if he actually buys five more
paintings - sight unseen.
Hello, Polly. Feeling better?
Polly, a guy named
Warren Gersh is coming in,
tell him I'm at an interview
or something--
Hello, Gabrielle.
Charming outfit.
Must you always comment
on appearances, Warren?
Hello, Gabrielle.
My you have a lovely soul today.
Hi, I'm Mary Joseph.
Don't mind her, you know
these temperamental artistes.
Hello, Mary.
And, Polly,
this is Warren. Polly.
Hello, Polly.
So aren't you the hot property
these days.
The hidden talent
behind the fortress.
Yeah, well...
I just thought I'd drop by
and see this divine gift
that you've bestowed on we,
mere mortals
and to congratulate you, of course.
You must be thrilled.
Yeah, well.
It's all a little unexpected.
Careful, the higher you fly
the harder you fall.
Thanks for the encouragement.
The woman who lived a charmed life.
May I please say something?
Of course, Polly, go ahead.
I don't think you should say
it's so easy for the Curator.
You don't know. I mean, you don't
know what goes on around here.
I mean, I saw with my very own eyes
how shy she was about it.
And I don't think it's
very fair to make fun of her
just because she can make something
so beautiful and you can't.
I think you just have to accept
the fact that you can't do it
and be glad that someone else can.
So, uh...
I just wanted to tell you that.
Thank you, Polly.
So, uh...
I'd like to see it.
- I guess I'll leave you two alone then.
- But we've got to meet that guy.
Oh right, that guy!
Sorry, Warren. Have a look,
it's out there in the gallery.
Polly will show it to you.
We have to run.
- To meet that guy.
- Yeah.
Try not to look so happy, okay?
Must you always comment
on appearances?
It's right in here.
And then she didn't come in
to work much any more,
and I didn't have very much to do.
I guess I missed her.
[ door opening ]
Dammit, this is what men are for.
- Now, don't be sexist.
- It's just a joke.
You understand jokes, don't you?
You're so politically correct.
Why are we whispering?
You'd think we were criminals.
Yes, next best thing.
We're partners in a victimless crime.
Mary, this is ridiculous!
It's going to have to end somehow.
Besides it's a little late
for a change of heart now, isn't it?
I need a drink.
I could swear I had
some Scotch in my desk.
Let's just have some tea then,
like nice girls from good homes.
Gabrielle, I just wish
you could relax into it.
Can't you see it's perfect?
Then why do I feel like
such a shit?
I could kick Polly...
[ loud bang ]
Sweet imbecile.
She just wanted to help me
overcome my shyness.
I guess I should let her go now,
it's too dangerous.
Polly's irrelevant, you know that.
You're the one who decided
to go along with it, Gabrielle.
Can't you just think of yourself
as my pseudonym?
You don't seem to understand
that I couldn't do that
debutante artiste bit, I'd gag.
This way I paint, you talk.
It's perfect.
It's so late. Why are you here?
You told me...
I guess you two should talk.
Polly, you're drunk!
It's not what you think...
Listen, maybe you could help us.
It's not so terrible, Polly.
But I believed you.
I know, I know you did.
But... you'll see that...
this is not, you know,
this is not at all what you think.
No. I'm telling you.
Tomorrow you'll see it in
a totally different,
different way. I'm sure.
I can explain it all...
[ Polly's dazed and not listening ]
[ siren wailing ]
So, it's been a little while
since it all happened.
I guess the Curator's probably
still in the hospital.
And I guess I'm going to probably
have to move away or something before
they come to arrest me...
or sue me,
or whatever they do to criminals.
How was l
supposed to know it was hot tea?
But you know
what the most amazing thing is?
It's this, it's this feeling...
it's this, it's like...
it's this feeling like
I'm out of breath or something.
I mean,
it's a really wonderful feeling.
I mean,
I know I should feel guilty about it,
but it's a wonderful guilty.
How can I tell you? It's...
[ Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 ]
[ loud bang ]
[ music resuming ]
[ applause and cheering ]
there it is.
That's what happened.
So I guess I'll be,
I'll be going away now.
You could probably just give
the furniture and everything to Dora.
Oh, she's the landlady,
or you could probably rent it out
as a very, very nice...
furnished bachelorette.
That washer and dryer,
they're brand new.
[ knocking ]
Polly, it's me. Gabrielle and Mary.
Can we come in?
What's this?
Oh, I just, I just borrowed that.
I was going to give it back.
I want to explain.
I don't feel good about lying.
What about your face?
It'll be okay.
Well, I didn't really...
I didn't mean to hurt you.
- I'm really sorry...
- Gabrielle!
Look at this.
These are yours?
Those photos that came
into the office...
were all yours?
No, I stole them.
I'm so sorry.
Come here, I'll show you some more.