Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 1970. Jalem Productions. Screenplay by Neil Simon. Cinematography by Andrew Laszlo. Produced by Paul Nathan. Music by Quincy Jones. Production Design by Charles Bailey, Walter H. Tyler. Costume Design by Forrest T. Butler, Grace Harris. Film Editing by Fred A. Chulack.
Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis run to the airport to catch a plane to New York City, his anxiety ramped to the max from the opening shots as he confirms that he has planned everything perfectly, double checks that his wallet is in place and once again reminds his wife of all the wonderful things they’ll do in the Big Apple. He has a very important interview the following morning that could possibly change their lives, he’s up for a promotion in the plastics company where he is currently an executive, and getting it means a whole new life in the thriving metropolis. The perfectly arranged getaway goes wrong from the start, beginning with a fogged-out city that won’t allow planes to land and reroutes their flight to Boston, after which they find out that their luggage is lost, then must catch the one train leaving for New York that night, starved and exhausted from series of circumstances that have kept them from getting a meal for hours. Upon arrival at their hotel, they find their room has been given away, then they get mugged, escorted by police to a robbery that results in joining the thieves in their getaway before being abandoned to sleep in Central Park. Everything that could go wrong does so and then some, which only increases the long list of names that Lemmon has been writing down with the intention of suing them when he gets back to his peaceful life in Ohio, while Dennis tries to keep him calm for as long as she can before eventually giving into her own terror at every new surprise (her “Oh my God” exclamations are hysterically funny). Neil Simon’s tight script and Arthur Hiller’s breathless direction are focused on a gimmick here, there’s no introspection or soul-searching that the couple’s adventures inspire, merely a shell game of traveler’s woes and legendary pitfalls of life in the big city compiled in a smooth, well conceived and performed mouse trap that never for a moment misses a beat. Lemmon threatens to be unlikeable from the beginning, it’s possible that his obnoxious personality will alienate the viewer too much to enjoy the proceedings, but the magnificent troubles that these two walk into would make you sympathetic to just about anyone’s plight by the time they’re hungry enough to take Cracker Jacks out of a dog’s mouth.
Golden Globe Nominations: Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Jack Lemmon); Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Sandy Dennis)