Tuesday, January 27, 2009

1/23/09: Divorce American Style (1967)

Dick Van Dyke, Debbie Reynolds, Joe Flynn, Tom Bosley, Shelley Berman, Pat Collins...with that cast, you expect this late-Sixties flick to be full of whimsy and laughter. But hold your horses. This "comedy," devised by TV legend Norman Lear, doesn't inspire much laughter—it's actually meant to be more satirical than outright funny.

Dick and Debbie are a married couple with two boys and nothing much more in common anymore except their passive-aggressive behavior. The first quarter of the movie focuses almost exclusively on their bickering...but after they separate, they find that being apart doesn't hold much more appeal either. Complications ensue, and it all leads to a predictable punch line. Some scenes resonate with a satirical glow, and it's fun to see many '60s actors and other artifacts around, but the movie is clouded by the near-constant fog of cigarette smoke spewed forth by nearly all of the leads, which I frankly find disgusting. I didn't much enjoy this, but on reflection, I guess it must have been kind of groundbreaking in its day to tackle the subject of marriage in such a seriocomic manner, especially with this cast. Still, it's hard to believe the screenplay actually got an Oscar nod. Then-20-year-old Tim Matheson can be seen as Dick and Debbie's son. Rating: 2/5.

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