Friday, May 15, 2015

I Will, I Will . . . for Now (1976)



          More or less watchable because if its charismatic leading actors, but otherwise quite rotten thanks to limp comedy and primitive gender attitudes, I Will, I Will . . . for Now attempts to paint a raucous picture of marriage in the ’70s. Elliot Gould and Diane Keaton play estranged spouses who attempt reconciliation by commissioning a detailed legal contract that spells out their respective responsibilities, and their scheme gets sidetracked because both spouses pursue relationships outside the marriage. Cue lots of remarks from Gould’s character about why it’s okay that he flirts with the sexy neighbor who lives downstairs, and lots of shrewish whining from Keaton’s character about why her husband needs to spend more time talking about his feelings. As cowritten and directed by old-school comedy pro Norman Panama, once a gag writer for Bob Hope’s radio shows, I Will, I Will . . . for Now gives voice to ideologies that must have seemed positively regressive when the movie was originally released; watched today, the picture’s not quite cringe-inducing, but it’s close.
         Les Bingham (Gould) is financially successful but romantically frustrated, because he’s still in love with his wife, Katie (Keaton). Alas, she’s moved on to someone new, whom Les doesn’t realize is Les’ best friend and lawyer, Lou Springer (Paul Sorvino). When Les and Katie attend an offbeat commitment ceremony together, they both react to the nation of partners laying out expectations through a contract rather than simply mouthing old-fashioned marriage vows. Les persuades Katie to give their romance another shot, at which point the believability and logic of the story utterly disappears. Literally the instant that Katie moves back into Les’ building, his eyes nearly pop out of his head while he ogles Jackie Martin (Victoria Principal), a onetime Playboy centerfold who lives a few floors below Les. Then, despite a few interludes of romantic outings and sexual bliss, Les resumes bad habits—ignoring Katie, smoking smelly cigars, watching sports incessantly, etc. He also spends time in Jackie’s apartment, even accepting a copy of The Joy of Sex from her. This is Les’ idea of reconciliation?
          Panama weakly mimics the manner in which Billy Wilder used actors including Jack Lemmon to make his sex-farce stories sing, for example throwing in a running joke about Les’ bad back, and the movie revolves around the idea that women can’t resist men who behave like Neanderthals. By the time the movie culminates in an elaborate sequence at a sex-therapy retreat, Panama has succumbed to male wish fulfillment, creating a scenario by which Les can romp around a bedroom with Jackie free of guilt—while still preserving a chance of keeping Katie. Oy. Gould does what he can, faring best in the film’s loosest scenes, while Keaton seems adrift without the benefit of a real role to play. Principal is merely ornamental, but Sorvino does well, even spicing some scenes with opera singing.

I Will, I Will . . . for Now: FUNKY

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