Married American George Segal wants nothing more than to have an affair with cynical Brit fashion designer Glenda Jackson, but things keep getting thrown in their way…including the fact that their feelings for one another deepen beyond those convenient for a casual arrangement. By the way, Jackson is divorced, and they both have kids, just so you know. Paul Sorvino plays Segal’s annoying work colleague who keeps turning up at the wrong time (and advises Segal to rethink things), whilst Hildegard Neil plays Segal’s wife.
It somehow earned Glenda Jackson an Oscar, but this 1973 so-called romantic comedy from director/co-writer Melvin Frank (writer of “White Christmas” and “Road to Hong Kong”) is the complete antithesis of what a romantic comedy should be. For starters, it’s about a guy trying to cheat on his wife. The woman he wants to cheat with? A cynical, glum-faced, cold-hearted bore of a woman, played thoroughly unappealingly by the overrated Glenda Jackson (who seems to be in great pain when attempting to move her facial muscles) who isn’t remotely believable as someone with any maternal qualities whatsoever. This is…yuck.
I make no judgements about infidelity in and of itself, that’s for others to say. But at no point and under no circumstances do I find infidelity to be romantic comedy material. I can’t stand films that try to get smart, witty or profound about infidelity or casual sex, and this film is in that category. It’s pretentious in the extreme. Romantic comedies should be light and fluffy (but hopefully with a little substance, of course), and making infidelity the main plot point surely means a messy, complicated situation, not to mention characters who aren’t very likeable. Should we really want these two characters to get together? If George Segal’s character were unhappily married, then yes I could see that being the case. Like I said, I’m not one to judge these things, especially in real life. But he claims to love his wife. So how can one support what he and Jackson are doing? And if they don’t end up together, where’s the fun in that, either? That’s why there aren’t many romantic movies centring around an adulterous relationship. Some might consider it all very modern and grown-up, and that’s fine…in any other genre. Just not this one, or at least not done like this. This isn’t “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. It sure does devolve into a poor version of that film after a while, however. Two people bickering is even worse than them trying to have an affair, to be honest.
The funny thing about this film is that George Segal plays the adulterer, and yet he’s the charming one. He can’t save the film, but he’s perfectly fine in the role. Not the case with Jackson, but her character is so bitter and hateful and the actress so cranky that you feel she’d be better off as the married one. At one point she claims to be fed up with their arrangement, but she’s such a miserable shrew of a woman one wonders when she was actually happy with it. And there’s absolutely no chemistry or romantic spark between the two. So even if no infidelity were involved, it still wouldn’t work. It’s the fatal blow.
The one element of the film that doesn’t suck is the lively performance by the underrated Paul Sorvino, who steals the show, for whatever it’s worth. It’s easier to see why this has been somewhat forgotten over the years than it is to understand how Glenda Jackson got an Oscar for it, let alone the film being nominated for Best Picture (!).
A miserable ending caps off a completely miserable, unromantic film. Frank wrote the desperately unfunny, Oscar-nominated screenplay with Jack Rose (“Road to Rio”, “The Great Muppet Caper”).