Only Two Can Play (1962)

SIDNEY GILLIAT

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

, 1962. . Screenplay by , based on the novel by That Uncertain Feeling by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by .  Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

Breezily funny adaptation of Kingsley Amis’s novel That Uncertain Feeling, starring Peter Sellers as a happily married Welsh librarian who is dazzled by the appearance in his stacks of blonde bombshell .  His home life with and their two children is warm and rewarding but under financial constraints thanks to his low-paying job, so he’s happy to accept when Zetterling offers to use her influence with her city official husband and suggest Sellers for a higher paying job in the city’s library system.  He also can’t resist when she makes a move on him, igniting a passionate affair that turns his life in sleepy Aberdarcy (a fictional town name substituting for Swansea) into something as exciting as a spy movie.  Their attempts to consummate their lust are interrupted at every turn, whether they’re in a car in the middle of a field or in her own mansion while her husband is out.  When it is eventually time for him to show up for the job interview that will provide the promotion that will solve all his money woes, he must decide if such a benefit is worth having:  Maskell is on to him and tells him she’ll stay his wife in name only, provided he not pretend to have any lofty ideals about their relationship, while Zetterling twists their fun into an opportunity for her to keep him under her thumb the way she does her husband.  Told in a series of lengthy, brilliantly plotted sequences that stretch our tolerance for an awkward situation but never break it, this marvelous character study is a great opportunity to see the more intellectual side of Sellers’ comedy that isn’t as readily on display in his more popular films.  Despite his demanding that Maskell be fired from the role, he shares terrific chemistry with his onscreen wife that makes their scenes the best in the film (so adamant was he about recasting her that he gave up his back-end profits on the film; when it was a success and critical response proved his opinion of her wrong, Sellers decided to bad mouth it as a failure for the rest of his life).

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