Friday, May 31, 2013

Jennifer on My Mind (1971)



          Here’s the premise of this would-be comedy for the druggie generation: After a with-it dude’s far-out girlfriend dies of a heroin overdose, he spends several days hiding her body in his apartment (and then his car) because he thinks he was responsible for her death and doesn’t want to get in trouble. Are you laughing yet? No? Well, guess what, you won’t be laughing when you watch the actual movie, either. Instead of being irreverent, which was undoubtedly the goal, Jennifer on My Mind is distasteful and unfunny. It’s also very boring, which is quite an accomplishment given the lurid storyline. Seeing as how the movie was directed by Noel Black, who made the masterful black comedy Pretty Poison (1968), and seeing as how the film was based on a book by the respectable Roger L. Simon, it’s tempting to point the finger of blame at screenwriter Erich Segal. Yes, that Erich Segal, Mr. Love Story himself. Once again, Segal demonstrates his unique gift for generating slick tedium. In fairness, though, nothing works in Jennifer on My Mind, so the script may simply be the most glaring of myriad unsatisfactory elements.
          The storyline unfolds on two levels. In the present-day narrative, rich twentysomehting Marcus (Michael Brandon) avoids family members and friends who visit his pad because he’s concealing a corpse. In flashbacks, we see Marcus’ courtship with the girl who ended up rotting in his bathtub. She’s Jennifer (Tippy Walker), a dimwitted hippie whom Marcus meets in Europe. Over the course of their hot-and-cold relationship, Jennifer got involved with hard drugs. To say that the narcotics angle feels incompatible with the film’s various gooey, music-driven love montages is an understatement, but as we all know from Love Story, Segal’s got a thing for gooey, music-driven love montages. Leading players Brandon and Walker are forgettable, but several semi-famous players show up in incidental and/or supporting roles, namely Peter Bonerz, Barry Bostwick, Jeff Conaway, Renée Taylor, and Chuck McCann. The picture also features an early performance by a future superstar. Robert De Niro shows up for one scene piloting a gypsy cab—yep, it’s De Niro playing a taxi driver five years before Taxi Driver. The actor brings his usual early-career intensity to a silly bit part as a hack wired on speed, but his brief appearance isn’t sufficient reason to trudge through Jennifer on My Mind. 

Jennifer on My Mind: LAME

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