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Posted : 1 month, 1 week ago on 3 September 2017 06:36 (A review of Julia)

Quick – who is this movie actually about? If you answered anyone other than Lillian Hellman, then you clearly weren’t paying attention. It’s frustrating to watch this, yet it’s so well made, impeccably acted, and contains bits of brilliance that you’re kept enthralled throughout. But why are we focusing all of our time with Hellman and not Julia?


The answer is simple, Julia is based on a story in Pentimento, one of Hellman’s, shall we say, embellished pieces of autobiography. We never get an actual sense of Julia as a person, of what defined and forged her choices and ultimate fate. What we get is a character that exists more as an ideal and memory, a ghostly apparition of radical political ideology, personal freedom, and persistent danger.


The central friendship is hardly dealt with, as Julia is an abstraction to Lillian, a point of obsession. For Julia, Lillian is…a courier? There’s an imbalance of attention and detail going on here that undoes much of the dramatic tension and centrality of the narrative. It suffers from forcing us into Hellman’s perspective. We spend far more time watching her struggle to write plays, gain success and affluence, and spar with her longtime companion, Dashiell Hammett (a subtle and knockout turn from Jason Robards).


Yet Vanessa Redgrave’s performance as Julia is hypnotic and ensnaring. She manages to play a character that’s borderline impossible with enough life, vitality, and strength that it’s impossible to not understand Lillian’s obsession with her. A reunion scene between the two women is a marvel of Redgrave and Jane Fonda’s tremendous talents on full display. Fonda must play the entire scene with a calm exterior as confusion and anxiety threaten to poke through the surface, while Redgrave holds an intense stare and keeps still. Her eyes look tired and doomed. She knows that this is one final desperate attempt at saving herself that may not work. Redgrave constantly reassures Fonda with quietly given instructions.


It is in this scene that we realize just how much the rest of the film is missing. More scenes with Fonda and Redgrave where they’ll allowed to create a believable chemistry as longtime friends, more moments where the two actresses can go toe-to-toe and bring out surprising choices with each other. But this sounds like a discredit to what Fonda is doing with her role as Lillian Hellman. She’s dynamite, and if this was a straight portrait of the writer, a woman who smoke, drank, and spat angry words out on her typewriter with equal amounts of passion and commitment, that would be one thing. But this is ostensibly about Julia, and Julia is a mere enigma.


There’s so many good things going on that Julia begins to feel overstuffed and splitting at the seams. There’s at least two or three different movies operating at any given time, and any one of them would be worth following to the end. What we get is several different films vying for our attention and muting each other out. Still, this is the peak years for Fonda, and she’s enough of a reason for watching this. Robards and Redgrave are another two, and despite its shapelessness, Julia is an engrossing piece of work.

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The Omen

Posted : 1 month, 1 week ago on 3 September 2017 05:41 (A review of The Omen)

Tale as old as time, the adopted son of an older American diplomat and his wife turns out to be the antichrist. It could honestly happen to just about anyone. The Omen is not some taunt, dread-filled masterpiece of horror. Too much of it plays out like kitsch, and some of it is just downright loopy in its overheated Catholicism and moral panic. Still, there’s some jewels of sustained horror, solid performances, and Jerry Goldsmith’s pulpy, overbearing score make The Omen more than worth the trip.


The Omen’s concept is at once audacious and steeped in the imagery and mythology of its Biblical inspiration/aspiration. Satan is here in the form of a toddler, and the entire narrative thrust is about the father possibly striking down the babe as if he’s Abraham binding Isaac. There’s also intervention to prevent the child-killing, but it’s less divine then from murkier and darker quarters. No angel hand to prevent the striking knife blow here, instead it’s a bullet from cops who think the ambassador has lost his damn mind.


And perhaps he has. The strongest parts of The Omen are when the incidents occur and we question their validity. Are these two merely struck with bad luck and the easiest explanation is to blame it on the newest member of the family? Or are there really demonic forces at play? The air of sustained dread and slow-burning doubt and terror is immediately evaporated by the presence of Mrs. Baylock and her gigantic Rottweiler, in effect acting as a protective hellhound for the demonic child.


Granted, Billie Whitelaw’s performance as Mrs. Baylock is effectively peculiar and sinister wrapped up in a polite-but-stern Irish nanny exterior, but the character is so clearly evil that she’s nearly cartoonish in comparison to the rest. There’s no shock when the depths of her derangement are revealed as there was when the first nanny hangs herself at the birthday party. Roles like this require a more subtle touch, think of Ruth Gordon’s warmly daffy neighbor in Rosemary’s Baby. She’s the last person you’d expect to act as a midwife for Satan’s progeny, whereas as Whitelaw plays like an anti-Mary Poppins that’s clearly up to no good.


Although Whitelaw and Lee Remick get to partake in one of the most bravura pieces of film-making in The Omen. Remick is in the hospital recovering from a fall when Whitelaw shows up in her room. Remick gets stuck in a white viel looking either like a virginal bride or a holy Madonna, and Whitelaw appears with a burning and intense gaze. It’s a quiet showdown punctured by the sight of Remick falling out of her window to her death. It’s shocking and horrific, and a point where The Omen shows its cards. The good guys may not win, and the devil may take dominion over the earth.


It is with the introduction of the more outrageous elements of the plot that the dialog and character actions take a turn from deeply rooted in reality towards gloriously zany pulp. The sight of Gregory Peck tearfully reciting an imaginary passage from the Book of Revelations after learning of his wife’s death is dangerously close to camp. And the sight of him and David Warner digging up an infant’s grave in an obviously artificial set standing in for some indeterminate European location is dangerously close to the hysterical.


None of this is to say that Peck is slumming it here, or that he’s giving a bad performance. He’s not. He successfully traces the line from happy nuclear family to crazed religious conspiracy theorist, and he manages to find pathos in the scene where he realizes it’s all true as he cuts his son’s hair to find the Mark of the Beast. Same goes for Remick as his wife, who manages genuine terror in a zoo trip gone wrong and gets another stellar set-piece where Damien lets her fall off of a ledge that’s filled with her maternal desperation and panic.


Harvey Stephens makes the biggest impression as Damien. His dialog amounts mainly to shrieks, giggles, and a few utterances of “mommy” or “no,” but Stephens is positively terrifying. Has evil ever so looked so banal as it does here? I don’t know what they did to get him to stare so intensely, but it unnerves and works. His sweet smile at the camera as the closing image is a gut punch of evil triumphant.


For all its silliness, of which there is ample amount, and gauzy cinematography to give it a veneer of period respectability, The Omen is still a well-made thriller. It’s best when it focuses on the psychological terrors and less so when it transitions into more conventional scares. But it also offers up the sight of Remick and Peck wrestling with a toddler that’s freaking out about going into a church. I think any parent can relate to their exasperation in that moment. Just beware of Irish nannies that show up with large breed dogs.

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The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Posted : 1 month, 1 week ago on 3 September 2017 04:32 (A review of The Curse of the Jade Scorpion)

Woody Allen has singled out The Curse of the Jade Scorpion as one of his worst films for his failure to find a suitable leading man and having to take over the role himself. He’s only half-right. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is incredibly minor Allen, but it’s far from his worst piece of material.


But he was spot-on about a major failing of the film being stuck with him in the leading role. He originally wanted Tom Hanks or Jack Nicholson, either one of them would have brought an extra spark that’s currently missing. Allen also generates a kind of anti-chemistry with Helen Hunt that’s fascinating. We believe them as two people get under each other’s skin, but they don’t come even remotely close to selling the inevitable romance.


Allen is clearly aiming for a combination of His Girl Friday with Double Indemnity here, but he misses that mark. Or, like he was trying to revive The Thin Man franchise, and despite a rapid-fire series of sarcastic digs and colorful dialog he can’t capture the heady fun and sense of play that William Powell and Myrna Loy brought to that material. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion plays out as perfectly fine homage, it’s a pleasing trinket for 90-some minutes, and then it fades from memory.


There’s the premise and setup for a lively screwball comedy, but Jade Scorpion has performance anxiety. It’s mainly traced back to its leading man. There’s a variety of supporting parts that filled in with comedic actors that bring their best to the material, like Wallace Shawn, Dan Aykroyd, and David Ogden Stiers. Charlize Theron gets to play a slinky femme fatale then take the piss out of it in a minor part. Helen Hunt proves surprisingly effective in a role clearly written with a Rosalind Russell type in mind. They just make the failure of Allen to effectively find a leading man all the more glaring.


There’s some chuckles but with a premise this good it’s frustrating to watch the rest of the material just fizzle out. The craft on display cannot be faulted, as the entire movie looks simply gorgeous with period interiors and costumes that sparkle with vintage warmth. Is this the worst film of Allen’s career? Hardly, but it’s clearly somewhere towards the lower end.

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Do Not Disturb

Posted : 1 month, 1 week ago on 3 September 2017 04:10 (A review of Do Not Disturb)

You can sense the apprehension in Doris Day about playing any of this material, and her ability to commit to this kind of material and play it to perfection is central to making any of it work. But it’s not like that’s the only problem plaguing Do Not Disturb. From a too dour leading man to the fact that none of it is funny to a pervading sense that this type of vehicle for Day was growing stale and moldy fast, Do Not Disturb is an immediately forgettable and minor work from an underrated talent.


Doris Day and Rod Taylor play a married couple who relocate to England, where they begin to experience marital problems. Mainly, Day thinks Taylor is having an affair with his secretary, and he thinks she slept with a sleazy antiques dealer. More zaniness ensues before the truth comes out, the couple happily reunites, and we fade out as it is presumed they have makeup sex.


That’s a perfectly fine premise for a Doris Day farce, but the execution is all wrong. Rod Taylor’s a great actor in dramatic material, but he appears adrift with the kookier approach required of this material. In contrast, Day plays a lot of the material too cutesy, or gives a routinely polished performance that we’d seen several times by now. A bevy of supporting players amount to bit parts, and a series of gags play out like rejects from I Love Lucy. There’s no fire, no believable romantic chemistry or anxiety, and the lone joke that lands is the sight of a glamorous looking Day trying to shimmy and shake at a convention surrounded by businessmen and their mistresses.


There’s nothing wrong with a typically fizzy and lightweight Day production, they’re deceptively hard to get right and indelible when they are. It’s just that Do Not Disturb was made against Day’s wishes as her then-husband signed her up for the production without her consent or input, and trooper that she was, she made it anyway. Would you be shocked to learn that Day signaled this one out as one of her least favorite films in her autobiography? It shows on the screen, which is an incredibly rare occurrence for a consummate pro like Day.

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Alien: Covenant

Posted : 1 month, 3 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 03:54 (A review of Alien: Covenant)

I fully admit that I feel a tremendous amount of nostalgia towards the Alien franchise, and even a moderately successful entry in the franchise gets outsized love for me. What can I say? I grew up with Ellen Ripley as my de facto action hero(ine) that gave me a thrill and power. You can keep your Indiana Jones and James Bond, give me Sigourney Weaver throwing down with acid-blood monstrosities throughout the galaxy.


Hell, just the other night I went out to an arcade, played an Alien game, and announced that I was about to "live my Ellen Ripley fantasy.” I may have also screamed out some quotes while shooting down hordes of xenomorphs, eggs, and face-huggers. All of this is to say, I fully admit that Alien: Covenant is a flawed film, but it’s a competently made Alien movie and that’s good enough for me.


The chief problem is that the cast is too expansive with too little attention or time spent fleshing a large portion of them out. They merely exist to get mowed down by hungry proto-xenomorphs or work as living incubators for said creatures to pop out of. What made the first two entries in the franchise so memorable and beloved was how it managed to give its cast a series of distinct, colorful personalities that brought a lot of acknowledged history to the material. Covenant misses that mark, and has more in common in with the equally flawed third and fourth entries in the franchise.


As populated as it is by great actors, far too many of them are given the short end of the stick when it comes to material to play. Amy Seimetz, Carmen Ejogo, and Demián Bichir immediately spring to mind. Nothing against Katherine Waterston, a very fine actress and making the best of a fairly homogenous role, but I wonder what Seimetz or Ejogo would have brought to the part.


Even worse is how the themes of belief and heavy-handed religious symbolism feels fairly hollow given how little time and care is paid into deeply investigating it all. It all sparks into something glorious, and frankly terrifying, when Michael Fassbender’s David introduces us to his pseudo-laboratory filled with medical curiosities and flayed open cadavers. It is here that Covenant’s looming demonic symbolism blooms the fullest as David is revealed as a better satanic figure than Satan himself. After all, the devil is merely a necessary pawn in the cosmic balance of things, whereas David is willfully destructive, chaotic, and amoral in his dreams of usurping humanity with his army of bioengineered super-predators.


It’s not that we root for David, it’s that David is the most fully-realized character on display. He becomes a charismatic figure for a variety of reasons, chiefly his ability to pull us into his orbit then horrify or threaten us. He’s a logic progression of the creation in Frankenstein. Where that creature merely wanted to be understood and loved, David seeks to remake his makers and the rest of the world in his own twisted image. He’s the type of fascinating and complex villain that so many major blockbusters could use more of.


Of course, there’s the continually presence of the xenomorphs primal horrors as being bathed in viscera, fluids, and the degradation of the human body into a mere meat sack. Several of the scares are telegraphed, but quite a few manage to land with a horrific and ecstatic plop. A scene where one crew member births an albino infant proto-xenomorph out of his spine is terrifying and squirm-inducing, same goes for his comrade that vomits one up in what looks like amniotic fluid.   


Covenant never quite reaches the nihilistic terrors of the first Alien film, but it outdoes Prometheus in being a successful entry in the ever-flowing franchise. It’s a competently made and produced franchise entry, it doesn’t add enough that’s new, but it does deepen and expand upon the character of David. In the end, David may end up being the twin pole to Ellen Ripley, the chaotic evil to her heroic destruction of the toxic patriarchy and single-handed flip of the gender expectation in science-fiction. I look forward to where they’re taking him in the next installment.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

Posted : 1 month, 4 weeks ago on 19 August 2017 11:27 (A review of Spider-Man: Homecoming)

I know it might sound crazy, but this second reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise may emerge as the best single Spider-Man movie yet. A large part of the reason this one is so successful is how scaled down it is. There’s no third-act falling debris or blue light causing mass destruction found here, instead these characters live on the fringe of the major heroics and occupy a single neighborhood. Spider-Man: Homecoming is something of a double-meaning title, not only does it take place during that high school ritual, but Marvel’s finally got its hands (sorta) back on the property after selling it off to Sony during its financially troubled 90’s.


His first appearance in Captain America: Civil War was a welcome home, and a general sense that we were finally getting a completely successful version of the character on the big screen. Tom Holland’s overly-eager and squeaky voiced teenaged Peter Parker was a recognizable nerd that wanted to play with the big leagues and do the right thing, even if he didn’t always know what that meant. Holland’s utter perfection in the role, sliding as comfortably into the tights as successfully as Christopher Reeve slipped into Superman or Tom Hiddleston into Loki.


This scaled back ambition is refreshing as it means that Homecoming is primarily a high-school movie about a superhero and less about a “the world’s going to end unless I stop the thing” event. It feels like a self-sustaining franchise that flirts with the wider world of the MCU, but isn’t just another cog into that behemoth’s massive machine. If you ever wondered what a John Hughes superhero movie would look like, then look no further as this frequently plays like The Breakfast Club-gets-superpowers.


Of course the laid-back groove of the film will not sustain the entire duration, and it must eventually succumb to the rigid delineations of its genre’s demands. Michael Keaton makes the Vulture into a memorable arms-dealer that’s flooding the neighborhood with alien gadgets and pilfered technology left behind by the bigger battles with the marquee heroes, but his battles with Spider-Man are still strangely bloodless. The best confrontation between hero and villain is a civilian garb one that takes place in a car as it allows the two talented actors to engage in a back-and-forth that’s tense and clearly establishing stakes both emotional and physical. There's also quick appearances from two different Shockers and the Tinkerer in Keaton's gang and cameos from the future Scorpion and Prowler, because there's no escaping world-building in these things.


Even worse is how stacked the cast is with supremely talented comedic actors who are left with little to do. It’s a treat to see Martin Starr play the other side after gaining fame from Freaks and Geeks, but he’s a bit wasted as a teacher that mainly has to fret about his students. He gets a great gag with Zendaya, so there’s at least that. While Donald Glover and Hannibal Buress get a few great gags and one-liners in before being escorted away. They bring a tremendous energy to the film that it never properly harnesses into something better. Marisa Tomei fares much better as Aunt May, but she is also sidelined far too much. The woman won an Oscar for a comedic role; give her more to do damnit! She does get a great final scene though, one that gave me the biggest laugh in the entire film.  


Homecoming should still be celebrated for managing to eschew the bog of franchise building that still sinks, or at least undermines, other films in the MCU. It points towards a brave new world for superhero cinema, one where it can manage to be something else instead of just a paint-by-numbers template origin story or grim-dark brood-fest clash between overly powered people causing massive amounts of collateral damage. Call me crazy, but I wanted more of the first half’s high-energy soundtrack and teenage handouts, and less of the overly long feeling second half where the rectors of the genre demanded their blood sacrifice. Still, with Holland leading the charge, I’m really excited to see where this version of the Spider-Man franchise is going to go.

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Posted : 1 month, 4 weeks ago on 19 August 2017 10:49 (A review of Dope)

While Dope can’t quite overcome the genre conventions of a coming-of-age film, it at least adds some new wrinkles to the formula by giving the point-of-view to a trio of characters frequently regulated to the quirky best friend in other teen films. Not only that, but it’s got a generally killer soundtrack and a vibe that feels refreshingly unique and distinct even when it feels like it’s overreaching, which is often. Then again, too much ambition is better than none at all.


Yes, there’s something of a mixed bag of genres and styles buttressing against each other for dominance and screen time, and I can understand how that would be a demerit for several people. Hell, at times even I wondered where exactly it was trying to place its emphasis and where it was trying to go, but I also admired its commitment to its ambitions. Why the hell not take a bunch of characters living on the fringe of a fringe society and stick them in more conventional spaces and watch them flounder about?


Perhaps this self-consciously messy presentation is intentional as the film continually tries to underline that we shouldn’t settle for what’s expected of us, nor should we be quick to judge others based on circumstances. In-between these three characters struggling with a society that views them as liking “white shit” and trying to aim beyond their means, Dope decides to add in some heist and crime thriller elements to its breezy coming-of-age comedic situation. It frequently doesn’t cohere, but it gives Shameik Moore one hell of a role, and based on his work here he deserves bigger and better things down the line.


Call me crazy, but I liked Dope best when it merely sat back and was happy to watch its trio of aspirational weirdos hangout, play music, and geek out over 90's hip hop and ephemera of nerd culture. Their friendship suggests the strength of necessity of building your own communities within communities in order to survive and thrive. I like watching them play in their quirky electronic-punk band more than I cared about the realities of using BitCoin to deal drugs, but it has enough good will, spunk, and energy to power through the uneven bits and make it solid recommendation and enjoyably odd experience.  

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Great Expectations

Posted : 2 months ago on 17 August 2017 01:42 (A review of Great Expectations)

I would be more than happy to declare a moratorium on film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novels. Lord knows that there’s an overabundance to chose from, and many of them don’t bring much new to the material. At least this one brings a series of painterly images that recall the old masters. It makes the roadrunner like pacing easier to swallow as it’s beautiful to stare at.


So are the leads, but they feel a bit hollow. Jeremy Irvine gives Pip more life than the typical interpretation, but it seems like he was cast more for how fetching he looks while staring off in romantic torture. And Holliday Grainger is the cold-hearted, effortlessly sensual Estella. Her icy façade masks complicated and contradictory emotions for Pip, and no one else really, and her final confrontation with Miss Havisham where she screams that she is what she was trained to be is a delight. Grainger understands that there’s a larger game of adult’s egos raging against each other here, and she seems much more comfortable in the role than Irvine in his.


Of course, the real stars of any adaptation of Great Expectations are Miss Havisham, Magwitch, and Jaggers. Ralph Fiennes and Robbie Coltrane are clearly having fun with their tormented and dark characters, but Helena Bonham Carter steals the movie. Granted, Carter playing an eccentric is not a stretch, but she’s clearly having fun walking around with a limp in a decaying bridal gown. The three of them play Dickens like its grand opera or Shakespeare, which it is in a way, and aim to shake the rafters, and they damn near succeed. The film livens up whenever the focus pulls away from the paperback romance and onto them and the complicated web that weaves them together. Once again, I doubt David Lean’s canonized classic has any need to worry about its hallowed placement, but this entertaining enough version is not the worst way to spend two hours. I mean, you do get to watch Carter go full-tilt camp-tastic crazy, and that’s always worth a watch.

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52 Tuesdays

Posted : 2 months ago on 17 August 2017 12:32 (A review of 52 Tuesdays)

Much like Boyhood, 52 Tuesdays employed an unconventional production method in order to tell this story about the year in life of a teenage girl and her parent’s transition. While the story tends to shrink away from some of the more delicate and richer story possibilities, there’s still a lot to admire and work with here.


Director Sophie Hyde decided that she would only shoot the film on Tuesdays for a year, hence the title. It’s ambitious and prone to moments of striking change where we realize just how much the characters have changed physically and emotionally over the course of the film. It’s subtle in the best of ways, but Hyde also appears afraid to really dig deep into how a parent’s transition would affect someone emotionally. There’s a lot of talk and focus on the physicality of the transformation and very little attention paid to the interior changes.


Part of this is just how solely the film focuses in on Billie, our teenage narrator and guide. Her persistent video diaries and tendency towards filming everything, including sexual explorations with two older students from her school, mean we track her growth over the year in minute detail. Where does that leave James, her parent? As something of an ever-changing sketch, always fluctuating in relation to how Billie perceives him and his changes, and removed as a voice.


52 Tuesdays could play more like a gimmick if it weren’t for the wonderful lead performances. Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Billie is a knockout, as she is allowed a full range of emotions and interior thoughts that American teenagers are not seemingly scared or incapable of expressing in film. She’s not always likable, and prone to bouts of selfish brattiness and uncaring tantrums but these moments only reflect a deeper truth. Who wasn’t frequently like that as a teenager?


In the end the elliptical nature of 52 Tuesdays is forgiven for how real and complicated it allows its characters and situations to be, even if it doesn’t dig as deep or quite where it should. As a calling card goes, Hyde has done herself proud with this one. It’s compelling and small in such enthralling ways that I can’t help but hope it’s the beginning of a new talent.

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From the Terrace

Posted : 2 months ago on 14 August 2017 08:33 (A review of From the Terrace)

Sudsy melodramas need some juice in order to work and be entertaining, and in both of these regards From the Terrace stumbles forward in awkward gasps. No one could possibly mistake Butterfield 8, the other John O’Hara adaptation of 1960, for a great movie, but it is a gloriously entertaining piece of trash, in large part thanks to the ridiculous performance Elizabeth Taylor gives it. It comes roaring out the gate acting like it’s going to be another variation of the idle rich behaving badly, but then it starts moralizing and the whole thing deflates.


Maybe it’s that the opening act has Leon Ames and Myrna Loy tearing into the material with scenery chewing élan. I mean, Loy’s drunken matriarch is a blast of much needed energy any time she’s on-screen. She brings a neurotic quality that allows her scenes to breathe, and she’s one of the few characters that we actually care about. Ames is a more serious-minded variation of his authoritarian patriarch from Meet Me in St. Louis. There’s no adorable tots and teenager daughters to knock the wind out of him here, and he’s allowed to bellow and rage unchecked. He’s an ornery bastard, but he makes the most of his cloistering father figure.


Shame that we’re sacked with a limp love triangle, or is it really more of a square? No matter, Paul Newman is dependably solid as the upwardly mobile rich boy trying to make good on his own. It’s not one of his better performances, he’s always best when playing rascals or outright amoral types and his character is too square here. I mean, all he really wants is a warm family home with a dependable wife and some kids. He doesn’t find it in Joanne Woodward’s hellraising society girl. Woodward gets the showy part, and she comes damn close to finding the appropriate tone for this bordering on camp material. Of course, she and Newman were a great love affair and those sparks come across here, ironically their scenes of strife and sparring are the best between the pair.


The two of them are left a bit saddled with their other romantic interests. Patrick O’Neal is just an oily asshole throughout, and it’s hard to see what exactly the attraction is between him and Woodward that keeps them running back to each other. Ina Balin is fine, but she plays the material so damn earnestly you’d be mistaken for a second for thinking that it deserved this kind of tone and commitment. Aside from Loy and Ames, the best supporting performance is from a one-scene wonder in Barbara Eden. She’s horny, manic, and clearly enjoying the chance to go big. She finds the right balance in the material to make it snap, and I wonder what the rest of the film would have been like with her replacing one of the other female leads.


Films like this were stock-and-trade for the era, but you notice the things that separate the good ones from the bad, or in this case, the mediocre. The major problem here is director Mark Robson, a man who was permanently attached to trashy material while alternately seemingly afraid to fully embrace its camp potential (see: Valley of the Dolls). His direction is one big weight around the film’s neck, but you’ve got plenty of handsome costumes, interiors, and glamorous movie stars behaving badly to stare at for two-and-a-half hours.

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