Thursday, April 21, 2016

Group Marriage (1973)

         Emerging almost inevitably from the anything-goes zeitgeist of the Sexual Revolution, Group Marriage is a lighthearted comedy about exactly what its title suggests, an arrangement by three couples to cohabitate and share sexual favors, thereby escaping the constraints of Establishment society. The movie is not quite as lurid and tacky as it sounds, though there are plenty of nude scenes as well as implications of encounters involving multiple partners. The movie is also not nearly as sharp as it should be, seeing as how it lives in the shadow of Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), which basically ends by crossing the sexual boundary at which Group Marriage begins. Whereas Mazursky’s film was a hip and thoughtful examination of the emotional and psychological effects of social change, Group Marriage merely gives lip service to serious issues while presenting anemic bedroom farce and simplistic clashes between seekers and squares. So even though Group Marriage is ultimately harmless, allowing its characters to display something vaguely resembling dimensionality, the movie is dragged down by knuckleheaded one-liners and a pervasive sense of voyeurism.
          The movie gets off to a rocky start, with cutesy scenes introducing viewers to Chris (Aimee Eccles), a clerk at a used-car dealership, and her boyfriend Sander (Solomon Sturges), proprietor of a bumper-sticker business. Chris meets Dennis (Jeffrey Pomerantz) and brings him home for sex, much to Sander’s chagrin, even though Chris makes the argument that her tryst was okay because she didn’t hide it from Sander. Then Dennis brings his buxom girlfriend, Jan (Victoria Vetri), into the mix, and it’s Chris’ turn to experience jealousy. Eventually, the group expands to include a studly beach bum, Phil (Zack Taylor), and a sexy lawyer, Elaine (Claudia Jennings). Complications ensue in the form of hangups and recriminations, as well as social pressure from folks who disapprove of the group’s arrangement. Some of the plot developments are imaginative, like Elaine’s quest to set a legal precedent for group marriage, and some are less so, like the various scenes involving the screaming-queen gay couple living next door to the group. To its minor credit, the movie never once devolves into outright sleaze, and perky performances keep the tone upbeat even when situations become complicated. 

Group Marriage: FUNKY

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