In this special edition of Unstreamable, we present: Cher.
In this special edition of Unstreamable, we present: Cher. Hulton Archive/Getty
Unstreamable is a weekly column that recommends films and TV shows you can't find on major streaming services in the United States. This week in a special Cher edition of the column: Jasmyne cried while watching Mask, Cher cried while hitchhiking in Chastity, a bunch of divas fight Nazis in Tea With Mussolini, and Cher gets all tied up in Faithful. Read our other recommendations here. For more Unstreamable Cher suggestions, check out Silkwood and Sonny & Cher's Comedy Hour: Christmas Specials.

MASK
USA, 1985, 127 min, Dir. Peter Bogdanovich
New format, bitches.
New format, bitches. Jasmyne Keimig

There was so much I loved about Mask. Eric Stoltz's excellent performance as the real-life Rocky Dennis, a funny and kind sixteen-year-old with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. The biker gang that loves and protects him from bullies. The way he explains color to a blind girl he has a crush on, Diana (Laura Dern's first major film performance), using rocks. And, of course, Cher playing his mother, Rusty, who struggles with drug addiction, but fiercely loves her son and fights for his right to be respected. It's a dazzling and emotive performance from Cher. Director Peter Bogdanovich—who famously doesn't like the actress—said that there are so many close-ups of Cher because she has really soulful eyes that always look sad, which fits with her character. He also said that she can't act, but he's a hater.

My guess is that Mask isn't streaming because of music copyright/royalty issues. The original cut of the film extensively featured the music of Bruce Springsteen, one of the first movies to do so. But due to disagreements between Universal and Springsteen's label, Columbia, they ripped all of his songs from the film, replacing them with Bob Seger songs to Bogdanovich's disappointment. I watched the Director's Cut version that came out 20 years after the original premiere and, boy, is there a lot of The Boss! Also Sam Elliott as Cher's boyfriend wearing this shirt, below, scandalized me. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video, Seattle Public Library, and Netflix DVD.

***

CHASTITY
USA, 1969, 83 min, Dir. Alessio de Paola
There's a lot to unpack here.
There's a lot to unpack here. CB

This is the movie that stopped Cher from acting in films for an entire decade. Rightly so, because it's terrible. But there's enough going on here that it's worth revisiting. Some oddities:

1. The film, atrociously written by Cher's then-husband Sonny Bono, follows a hippie runaway named Chastity, played by Cher. Sonny described the movie as being about "the increase in frigidity and the increase in lesbianism...the lack of manhood." Sonny sounds awful.

2. Chastity is not Chastity's original name, but the name she chooses for herself. "Why should people be stuck with a name they didn't choose?" Chastity asks in the movie. Ironically, this is the name Sonny and Cher gave Chaz Bono, the couple's one and only child who was conceived during the movie's filming. Chaz obviously, like Chastity, chose a different name.

3. According to this book, Sonny and Cher initially wanted Salvador Dali to be the film's artistic director. They flew to his apartment and were aghast when they encountered queer people running around, doing drugs, and touching each other. The couple was called "square." The partnership didn't work out.

There are many more oddities surrounding Chastity but we've reached the end of this blurb. CHASE BURNS

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video and Netflix DVD.

***

TEA WITH MUSSOLINI
Italy | UK, 1999, 117 min, Dir. Franco Zeffirelli
Mommies.
Mommies. Chase Burns

The appeal here is the stars. We’ve got Cher. Judi Dench. Maggie Smith. Lily Tomlin. Joan Plowright. All playing upper-crust American and British women who live in Florence during the rise of Fascism and Nazis. These women are nonplussed by the Nazis, even though the Italians around them seem to be very convinced that teatime is out and Swastikas are in. Maggie Smith just huffs, drinks her tea, and is like, “The Nazis won’t take over my Florence if I can help it."

The official plot description is: "An orphaned Italian boy is raised amongst a circle of British and American women living in Mussolini's Italy before and during World War II.” I would change “British and American women” and just write "DIVAS" because this movie is a bookish gay child’s fantasy. Who doesn’t want Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Lily Tomlin, and Cher to save them from Nazis? A+! (But, in all honesty, the movie is drab. They’re literally draped in drab.) CHASE BURNS

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video, Seattle Public Library, and Netflix DVD.

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***

FAITHFUL
USA, 1996, 91 min, Dir. Paul Mazursky
Cher looked really great in this.
Cher looked really great in this. JK
"What the fuck does that story have to do with anything? Huh?" spits assassin Tony (Chazz Palminteri) to Maggie (Cher) after she finishes telling him a story about her teenage boyfriend that dumped her. "Why are you telling me this? Who cares?"

This dialogue about sums up how I felt about Faithful, a Paul Mazursky-directed comedy-drama about a man (Ryan O'Neal) who hired Tony to murder his wife, Maggie, so that he could collect insurance on her. Tony's competence at his job is no match for the cunning charm of Maggie/Cher, who is tied up most of the film while he awaits the signal from her hubby to murder her. The dialogue is cringe ("You know there should be a law against 24-year-old blondes with big tits named Debbie"), the characters aren't worth caring about, and everything is awkwardly staged. At least Cher and Palminteri have good chemistry. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video and Netflix DVD.