The April Fools (1969)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): B

USA, 1969. , . Screenplay by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

Jack Lemmon plays a financial trader who is invited for a meeting with the big boss (Peter Lawford) which he knows means a promotion. What he thought was going to be a private tete-a-tete turns out to be a wild party that Lawford is throwing in his lavish apartment, quickly throwing Lemmon the information about his job while inviting him to indulge in the madness happening around him. Colourful New York types surprise this straight-laced, married Connecticut man, who decides to enjoy an affair since all he has waiting for him at home is a son who doesn’t like him and a wife (Sally Kellerman) who wants him around even less. Catching the eye of a gorgeous woman (Catherine Deneuve) at the soiree, he asks her if she’d like to leave and get a drink somewhere, which she readily agrees to; she’s actually Lawford’s wife, which Lemmon doesn’t realize, and the two have a wild ride of a night, including a couple of disasters at nightclubs and the visit to the home of an eccentric millionaire and his wife (Charles Boyer and ). Lemmon is inspired by the experience to go for broke and just follow his heart instead his sense of duty, especially after Deneuve informs him that she intends to leave her husband and move back to Paris, and he, deciding that his feelings for her are more than just temporary lust, tells her that he’ll be on that plane with her. This only mildly amusing comedy likely means to sell the free love era to a mainstream audience but does so with very little conviction, encouraging voyeurism in its early party scene that is not free from morally superior judgment, then stacks the decks in our protagonists’ favour by making their lawfully wed partners as unappealing as possible, Lawford a clueless capitalist and Kellerman a freezing cold bitch. It doesn’t help that Deneuve, in her first Hollywood production, seems uncomfortable performing in English and deals with her lack of chemistry with Lemmon, who could never perform sexual attraction as anything other than a neurotic outburst, by simply not trying to make it happen. Nobody would have trouble believing that Lemmon would throw over his dull middle-class life for a woman as stunning as Deneuve, but the film would be a much smarter and provocative comedy if it wasn’t trying to pass this caprice off as the pursuit of true love, or insulted its female audience by acting like the increased social acceptance of divorce among the middle-classes, meant to coincide with the ground gathered by the women’s movements of the time, was equally beneficial to wives (it actually resulted in what Nora Ephron said was a lot of women suddenly realizing they were “sellers in a buyer’s market”). A finger on the pulse of the times it does not have, and could be forgiven for this if it was actually a smart or hilarious comedy, but it is neither.

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