I Saw a Film!

This old thing was a major amusement of my life long ago. Like so many entertainments I adored as a young person, it isn’t anywhere near as clever or sexy as I once imagined. Somehow I remembered Barbara as far less comical looking. Her outfit, a bit of silly, lacy lingerie with hot pink hand prints emblazoned on her boobs went entirely past me. It’s hard to tell now if she was exposing her cheeks, or if they had a stand in for her. But this is all beside the point, the premise is what stretches the imagination.

George Segal is a struggling NYC writer, he works in a bookshop (remember Doubleday?) and barely makes ends meet. Barbara is a hooker and night club dancer, though she plays this role as a ridiculously naïve lass to whom no cynicism has stuck. She still gets into cars thinking men just want to give her a ride on a rainy night. The one thing the play does well is represent how we sort of carry on with fantasies about who we are. A struggling writer, but really a bookstore employee, a night club stripper, but really an actress . . . etc. Most of us maintain these sorts of ideals in our minds as we mix the batter and fry the fries.

Here’s where it gets stupid. Barbara as Doris, pounds on George’s, as Felix (though not really Felix), door in the middle of the night, she barges in after assuring him of her harmlessness, and assaults with an endless stream of homophobic insults mixed with stomping around and threating him. The conversation quickly leans over to the fact that Felix could watch Doris through his window, and hear her with her clients. She eventually gets kicked out and she feels he owes her. This kooky, middle of the night reasoning, unloaded on quiet Felix comes across as not very cute. But it carries on anyway, the slippery discussion moving along into a situation where they end up in a scream fight, and get removed from the building.

Then they somehow end up on Robert Klein’s sofa, another bookstore worker buddy of Felix. At this apartment Doris says she can’t sleep without TV, Felix pretends to be a TV through a fishtank, this of course does nothing to cause anyone to sleep. Their to and fro bickering winds up causing Klein and company to exit their own place to watch the trash pickup before the crowds.

Eventually, Babs reveals she gets paid to do some kinky stuff, but the kinky stuff is so creatively nothing that it’s hard to imagine having any sort of reaction to it. One example is that some fellow pays her to allow him to roll hard-boiled eggs at her while saying “bombs away!” After reading Gravity’s Rainbow this doesn’t even register as a mentionable event. But somehow the writers of our goofy film find this amusing (or as close as they could get to talking about actual sexuality?). Buck Henry, most famous for Get Smart and taking pictures of Gilda and Lorraine on SNL as the creepy uncle, and The Graduate, at least for me, wrote this thing for the film and I presume he enjoys edgier sexuality, though none of it could be truly expressed here in 1970s. There’s meant to be a hilarious kooky sweetness in this Barbra character but maybe it’s a NYC taste. I think most of us take less well to being screamed at in the middle of the night by the most difficult and ungrateful homeless woman on the planet.

They finally have some sex and this seems to help.

In the end, they try to fess up and give one another the truth. Felix isn’t Felix, and he’s not terribly upset about losing his artist fiance. Doris for her part tolerates being treated like a dog temporarily, she gives her paw for Segal’s final argument about being a good pet . . . a touch of dominance and submission suggestion. Finally, Doris doesn’t just spit abuse or defense and just sweetly offers her “paw’. She wins, if what she wanted was Segal’s love.

This runs free on Prime and is another of those old films that would do much better

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