Cactus Flower Jan 19, 2014 16:12:29 GMT -5 via mobile
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 19, 2014 16:12:29 GMT -5
Cactus Flower (1969)
Directed by: Gene Saks
Directed by: Gene Saks
Gene Saks' Cactus Flower is an electric little comedy gem, buoyed by great lead performances, unmistakable chemistry amongst its cast, and a genuinely pleasant feeling of not knowing where the material is headed. The film is headlined by Walter Matthau, an amiable and always welcome presence, playing Julian Winston, a dentist living comfortably within his means with a little something on the side. He has been seeing his mistress Toni (Goldie Hawn) for quite sometime. In order to get out of the relationship, Julian lies and tells Toni that he is married with three children. Depressed and out of options, she resorts to a cheap suicide attempt that fails due to her caring neighbor.
Upon learning about Toni's suicide attempt, Julian has seemingly no choice other than to get back with her and predicating the relationship off another lie, this one being he plans on divorcing his wife in order to be with her. She can kind of believe that, but requests a dinner-date with his wife, who, of course, Julian doesn't have. He winds up getting his receptionist Stephanie Dickinson (Ingrid Bergman) to play his wife, despite her being very straight-laced and of a no-nonsense type. As one can infer, this web of lies only extends itself, and Julian, along with Stephanie, become entangled in something they can't detach themselves from.
This material may sound familiar to some, being that this particular film was just remade into the abysmal comedy Just Go With It, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. The film was simply not funny, and relied more on humor derived from situations and far-fetched antics rather than the nuances brought forth by its actors. With Saks, a brilliant director of lengthy conversations, behind the camera and I. A. L. Diamond writing, this particular effort becomes a classy and rousing little farce that sticks true to its Broadway roots.
Saks more than established his credibility with long takes, depictions of sharp, biting dialog, and uproarious situational comedy with The Odd Couple prior to this picture. Starring Matthau alongside Jack Lemmon, nobody in front or behind the camera seemed to be able to do any wrong. The film was constantly entertaining and always alive, even if some scenes in one particular setting with relatively basic takes lasted an upwards of twenty-five minutes. Here, he brings that same kind of conversational simplicity and fun to this particular project, always finding hilarious things for his three leads to say and to do.
Yet it would take a lot of effort to cheapen and soften veteran actors like Matthau, Bergman, and Hawn. The highlight here is Bergman, who proves to any of her naysayers she had at the time about her genre-diversity that she can not only do comedy but perform hilarious deadpan comedy. Consider a scene when Bergman's Stephanie is on a "date" with her "boyfriend" in a bar. Staged by Julian so that Toni can notice the two, Stephanie is clearly turned off by the man she's set up with - a long time customer at the dentist office - and she takes every opportunity she can to subtly insult or belittle the man. "Why not take a sip, dear, it may make me look better to you," he says. "There's not enough wine in the world," she replies.
And one cannot forget Hawn, whose performance here scored her an Oscar in 1969. Hawn is her usual lively, perky self, whose character is more than meets the eyes. One can dismiss her as naive and gullible, but the efforts she takes to either identify that Julian is lying to or just to learn information proves her character isn't as stupid as she seems.
Cactus Flower gets by on actor-chemistry along with acting talents rather than humor based on strained circumstances. It is total comedy from the 1960's, focusing on sharp dialog and character, rather than cheap jokes and immaturity. Assisted heavily by the wise talents of Saks but made the show it is thanks to its actors, the film is a lively blend of talent from every corner or the grid.
Starring: Walter Matthau, Goldie Hawn, and Ingrid Bergman. Directed by: Gene Saks.