Saturday, August 27, 2016

Your Three Minutes Are Up (1973)

          Strong acting elevates Your Three Minutes Are Up, a tonally confused dramedy about a straight-laced dude who tries to emulate his carefree buddy, leading to catastrophe. Beau Bridges plays the uptight guy well, articulating how his character envies his friend’s ability to change sexual partners daily and live beyond his means through various financial scams, while Ron Leibman is terrific—which is to say maddening—as the loudmouth swinger leaving a trail of bad debts and hurt feelings in his wake. The point seems to be that the uptight guy could use a little of his pal’s looseness, and the swinger could use a little of his friend’s social responsibility. Unfortunately, both characters come across as jerks. The uptight guy torments his fiancée by disappearing for an adventure, and the swinger is an outright liar and thief. That being the case, it’s hard to know whether viewers are meant to feel excited or repulsed when, say, the guys stiff two young girls with the check for an expensive meal or scam a payoff from an unlucky motorist by deliberately causing a fender-bender. Is this a bummer morality tale or a kicky thrill ride?
          At the beginning of the movie, Los Angeles working stiff Charlie (Bridges) is the typical movie schmuck, the sort of character Jack Lemmon played a zillion times for Billy Wilder and other directors. He slaves away at a soul-sucking job, endures constant criticism from his betrothed, Betty (Janet Margolin), and watches wide-eyed whenever Mike (Leibman) scores with a busty Scandinavian or some other sexpot. Then Mike’s life hits a wall. His bank account runs dry, his car is repossessed, and his unemployment benefits are cancelled because he’s lied about pursuing work. Mike asks Charlie for a lift to the airport, and that leads to an endless drive up the California coast, with mischievous idylls in Santa Barbara and the Bay Area. Charlie has a blast partying with hookers and running scams, though he knows his real life will eventually catch up with him, whereas Mike seems oblivious to the idea of consequences.
          Although the filmmakers clearly meant to imbue Your Three Minutes Are Up with humorous elements, very little of what happens is funny. Bridges’ character seems more depressed than pathetic, and Leibman’s is so obnoxious it’s hard to enjoy his rapscallion excesses. Yet if the movie is viewed a melancholy character study or as a critique of the carefree swinger lifestyle, Your Three Minutes Are Up is somewhat effective. One more thing: The Oscar-winning 2004 dramedy Sideways bears such a remarkable resemblance to this picture that it’s likely Rex Pickett, author of the novel upon which Sideways is based, saw Your Three Minutes Are Up and never forgot the experience.

Your Three Minutes Are Up: FUNKY


J said...

How did you see this? Thanks

greg6363 said...

Bridges and Leibman worked together 15 years later in the 1988 suspense thriller "Seven Hours to Judgement".