A fair amount of Neil Simon’s career was spent exploring the angst of middle-aged men, from the newly divorced roommates of The Odd Couple to confused sad sacks like Barney Cashman (Alan Arkin), the protagonist of Last of the Red Hot Lovers. Happily married but bored with his life, he’s preoccupied by fantasies of having a wild romantic affair. So when a self-confident woman named Elaine (Sally Kellerman) propositions him one afternoon, he begins a series of near-miss attempts at extramarital sex, bringing three different women to the unlikely trysting place of his 73-year-old mother’s apartment on the days Mom volunteers at a hospital. The movie primarily comprises three long scenes, one with each potential lover, and the mild amusement of the picture is watching Barney get more crazed each time a would-be rendezvous goes awry. Simon’s rat-a-tat dialogue is as impeccable as ever, with quirky character touches and that special Noo Yawk flavor of neurotic sarcasm, but like many of the pieces he brought to the screen in the ’70s, Last of the Red Hot Lovers can’t quite decide whether it’s going for sly pathos or out-and-out farce. The chatty lulls between big jokes go on too long, and the big jokes aren’t that big (although watching Barney try to smoke pot is a highlight). Arkin’s delivery and timing are impressive, even though his aloofness makes the piece feel too clinical, and his costars are inconsistent: Kellerman is strong as a depressive with a sharp tongue, and Renee Taylor is fun as a desperate housewife, but Paula Prentiss is badly miscast as the sort of space-case hippie Goldie Hawn excelled at playing during this period. So, despite the adjective in its title, this one is strictly lukewarm.
Last of the Red Hot Lovers: FUNKY