Five years after the smash-hit musical of Grease, Olivia and John Travolta teamed up again to make Two Of a Kind. The two had being looking for a script to do together for a year and with over 30 studied, it seemed their film together would never be made. Either one of them liked the plot but the other didn't or vice versa. However, when John read the script to Two Of A Kind he called up Olivia and said 'If you don't like this one, I don't think we'll ever find another movie to do together.' Olivia did, so Two Of A Kind was born.
Two Of A Kind had a storyline which few people seemed to be able to describe intelligently, the best explanation I have found is: 'The movie is a fantasy romantic comedy about God being angry at the world because there are no good people left. He wants to destroy the planet, but decides to give two mortals (John and Olivia) a second chance to redeem themselves and the world.' John and Olivia both said that they were attracted to the script as it was an original story and Olivia liked the character she was to play - Debbie Wylder, a strong, obnoxious, bank-teller/aspiring actress. She even gets to swear and act out her first love scene on the set.
Proving herself as an actress?
The film was not to be a musical something with which Travolta and Olivia hoped would prove that the chemistry truly worked between them. In the publicity interviews that Olivia and John gave they even talked of doing films together every few years if Two Of A Kind was successful. The film also presented Olivia with the challenge to prove herself as a true actress and show that she could carry a film without the need for music. She even took acting lessons from Warren Robertson (who also appears in the movie as the acting coach). Olivia admitted that she found it difficult to let her emotions show, with her singing she could chose the songs to sing and how to present them but acting was a different matter altogether. 'The first time you scream or break down and cry in a room full of strangers is pretty frightening, but once you have that confidence you can really begin acting.' John had high praise for Olivia's acting in the film saying the film proved she was a real solid actress and that he'd felt emotions that he'd never felt coming from her before. Olivia spoke of the confidence that John gave her in her acting and John told how Olivia helped him in the recording studio with the phrase and vocal quality. Rather gracious of John considering they'd recorded only one song together for the film soundtrack.
The love scene was another challenge for Olivia and she said that if it had been anyone else but John she'd have been a 'basket case'. Olivia also spoke of how she achieved a trance like state whilst acting it out and it was only when they had finished the scene they remembered that they were in a room full of other people. John, more used to such scenes, described it as 'very easy, we have a real attraction, so it just made it completely natural.' The critics however had a field day with the scene, mocking the fact that Olivia had kept her clothes on throughout it!
Originally named Second Chance the film's title was changed after it was realized that five unsuccessful films had been made with that title. However, Two Of A Kind despite the name change and a $6 million advertising budget was to be a box-office flop. The angels played by an impressive group of actors including Oliver Reed, Beatrice Straight and Charles Durning, are the weakest cog in the film, their comical banter just doesn't work. The film includes most of the conventional crowd pullers: a car chase, a food fight in the restaurant and a love scene but they are poorly written. John, still looking trim and fit from his Saturday Night Fever days, manages adequately and whilst Olivia has rarely looked better on screen her acting ability wasn't really brought out by the script. However, the banter between Olivia and Travolta can be amusing with the door knob scene being the best example of this and proving that the chemistry is still there!
Again, as with Xanadu, the soundtrack did mean the project was not the disaster it could have been for Olivia. Her powerful single Twist Of Fate was a big number 5 hit in the States with Livin' In Desperate Times reaching number 31. A short but well produced album flash videodisc was commercially sold with all of Olivia's four songs from the film featured. The production of these videos is far superior to that in the film.
Her one and only duet with John - Take A Chance was actually co-written by Olivia, and it was released in the US as the double A side of Twist Of Fate. However, the video of this track is a disappointment even with the inclusion of a short dance sequence by the pair. However, where the Take A Chance video fails Livin' In Desperate Times more than makes up for and a 12" of this paired with Twist Of Fate was released in the USA (MCA 13987). The movie's soundtrack was eventually released on CD in 1998 to the delight of fans.
The most powerful song and video as far as I am concerned is the Shaking You ballad, filmed in Venice it tells the tale of a woman involved with a married man with children. Nothing to do with the film but as the last song on the videodisc, fans are left with a lingering image of Olivia, the scorned lover.
So whilst Two Of A Kind probably rates as the worst of Olivia's films, coming at very bad time for her career (it is followed by the relatively unsuccessful Soul Kiss album and the end to her 'popular' career) the film's music remains great to this day. John and Olivia did extensive promotion for the movie which was interesting for example did you know that Travolta copied Olivia's folded arms' pose from her If You Love Me..US album (back cover of the Music Makes My Day UK album) for his own album Let Her In before he'd even met Olivia?
Review by Helen, taken from Only Olivia newsletter March/April 1997
Montage: Philippe Roumila