Guarding Tess (1994) – Review

3 Stars

Before the action hero portion of Nicolas Cage’s career, there was the comedy phase. In 1994 alone, Cage appeared in three comedies. Guarding Tess was the first of his trio of releases that year. Its an unassuming and surprisingly engaging little picture with fine performances from both Cage and Shirly MacLaine, who was nominated for a Golden Globe due to her work on this film. The pair’s charisma and engaging screen personas work in their favor and by the film’s end we have grown very fond of both actors.

Doug Chesnic ((Nicolas Cage) is a Secret Service Agent who has just completed a three-year stint (and test of patience) overseeing the daily protecting of Tess Carlisle (Shirley McLaine), widow of a former U.S. President and close personal friend of the President. The once-First Lady is a cantankerous person who makes life miserable for Chesnic and his co-workers. Now, free of the awful assignment Doug is looking towards more glorious opportunities within the Agency. But, much to his surprise and reluctance Doug finds that Ms. Carlisle has requested he not be rotated and instead return to be her permanent detail.

Guarding Tess is a gentle comedy film, it’s more likely to produce smiles than outright laughs. Yet, the movie creates a certain tone and balances it well outside of a misguided interlude of suspense during the final act. McLaine and Cage make for a compelling screen team and their growing fondness and eventual friendship feels earned and not only dictated by the plot’s requirements.

Director: Hugh Wilson
Stars: Shirley MacLaine, Nicolas Cage, Richard Griffiths

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