Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lost and Found (1979)

          Despite being made by the same creative team as A Touch of Class (1973), which received four Oscar nominations and won a Best Actress prize for leading lady Glenda Jackson, the middling romantic comedy Lost and Found did not enjoy as warm a reception. Although Jackson and her Touch of Class costar, George Segal, both deliver highly professional comic performances, the script by Melvin Frank (who also directed) and Jack Rose is screechy and strained, wobbling between half-hearted slapstick sequences and overwritten dialogue scenes. Worse, both of the film’s lead characters come across as demanding, nasty, and smug, so there’s not much pleasure to be found in watching their courtship. Accordingly, while the movie is handsomely made and peppered with bright moments, the overall enterprise feels unnecessarily laborious. Adding insult to injury, Lost and Found also comes across as a hyperactive strain of the same narrative DNA that playwright/screenwriter Neil Simon explored much more effectively in a subsequent 1979 release, Chapter Two. Both movies try to amuse and touch audiences in similar ways, but Lost and Found tries harder and with less success, making for a somewhat tiresome viewing experience.
          Lost and Found starts at a European ski resort, where American professor Adam (Segal) and British divorcée Tricia (Jackson) crash into each other—twice!—in a wheezy example of the romantic-comedy staple, the “meet-cute.” After transitioning from acrimony to affection, the couple marries and returns to Adam’s home in the U.S., where he teaches at a small college. Marital strife ensues, because Adam hides several important facts from his new bride: He doesn’t tell her that his shot at tenure is endangered, that he’s fallen behind on his dissertation, and that one of his research assistants is a former lover. Oh, and he’s also got an overbearing mother, Jemmy (Maureen Stapleton), and a circle of academic friends who degrade themselves by kissing up to administrators. Tricia makes a valiant attempt at learning to love her new circumstances, but once Adam’s duplicity and narcissism become intolerable, she lashes out with barbs and tantrums.
          On the plus side, since writers Frank and Rose both earned their stripes as jokesmiths for Bob Hope, a number of the one-liners in Lost and Found crackle. For instance, the embittered Tricia describes the average nubile home-wrecker as “age 22, bust 38, intelligence negligible.” Frank and Rose also have fun with supporting character Reilly (Paul Sorvino), a motor-mouthed cab driver who becomes important in the movie’s final act. Yet because the myriad extended Jackson-Segal scenes are the main attraction, the absence of magic from those scenes is nearly a fatal flaw.

Lost and Found: FUNKY

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