Another of director Otto Preminger’s cringe-inducing attempts to explore themes related to the youth culture of the late ’60s and early ’70s, this awkward movie features a few cutting one-liners, but is so scattershot and tone-deaf that it’s nearly a disaster. Worse, this is very much a case of the director being a film’s biggest impediment, because had a filmmaker with more restraint and a deeper connection to then-current themes stood behind the lens, the very same script could have inspired a memorable movie.
Adapted from a provocative novel by Lois Gould, the movie tells the story of Julie Messigner (Dyan Cannon), a New York City housewife who discovers that her husband (Laurence Luckinbill) is a philanderer—at the very same time her husband is stuck in a coma following complications from surgery. (Any resemblances to the 2011 movie The Descendants, which features a similar plot, are presumably coincidental.) As Julie discovers more and more about her husband’s wandering ways, she moves through stages of grief, first denying the evidence with which she’s confronted, and then acting out in anger by having affairs of her own. Mixed into the main storyline are semi-satirical flourishes about the medical industry, because one of Julie’s close friends is Timmy (James Coco), the leader of the incompetent medical team treating Julie’s husband. As if that’s not enough, Preminger also includes trippy bits in which Julie flashes back and/or hallucinates because she’s looking at the world in a new way. In one such scene, Julie dreams that a publishing executive played by Burgess Meredith is naked while he’s talking to her at a party, leading to the odd sight of Meredith doing a few bare-assed dance moves.
Preminger’s atonal discursions clash with the poignant nature of the story, thereby undercutting strong qualities found in the movie’s script—the great Elaine May (credited under the pseudonym Esther Dale) and other writers contributed pithy dialogue exchanges that occasionally rise above the film’s overall mediocrity. Preminger’s sledgehammer filmmaking hurts performances, too. Cannon tries to infuse her character with a sense of awakening, but Preminger seems more preoccupied with ogling her body and pushing her toward jokey line deliveries. Costars Coco and Ken Howard, both of whom appeared in Preminger’s awful Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970), have funny moments playing unforgivably sexist characters, and model-turned-actress Jennifer O’Neill is lovely but vapid as a friend with a secret. As for poor Luckinbill, his role is so colorless that he’s a non-presence.
Such Good Friends: FUNKY