1967's film adaption of the Broadway hit BAREFOOT IN THE PARK evokes another time in American comedy that now seems like ancient history in its style and themes.
Robert Redford reprises his stage role as young, conservative lawyer Paul Bratter. As the film opens, he and his outgoing, brash new wife Corie (Jane Fonda) are taking a post-wedding Central Park horse carriage ride to the Plaza for a week long honeymoon. Sequestered in their suite for days, the maids talk about the hotel record for never leaving the room and newspapers pile up outside the door.
After a week of self imposed bliss, they move to their tiny, half broken down apartment in the city and begin married life, where Corie's devil may care, no inhibitions style begins to clash with Paul's button up, shy approach.
Their personalities are so gratingly opposite, it made me want to see the movie that happened before this one starts. How the hell did these two impossibly attractive people ever get together? It must be physical attraction, because Corie is borderline crazy and Paul is on the edge of boring.
Neil Simon wrote some of the biggest comedy hits of the 60's and 70's but his style has not survived the passing decades intact.
People just do not talk like this in real life, pattering with constant comedic set ups for the other's perfectly timed witty retort or punch line. It gets rather painful to watch. I think in the sixties and seventies, we were all more willing to take a leap and hear people speak like we wish we all could in the moment: fast, witty and impossibly urbane. Now, with reality TV beating us over the head 24/7, we see how thousands of people interact, not just the folks on the small and big screens available decades ago. It's killed our ability to accept the finely tuned rhythms of Simon's writing.
Poor Fonda's Corie now comes across as a bi-polar goofy loon whose mood swings threaten to push Paul to drink & desperation.
Redford comes off much better as the poor guy who seems to have married a crazy person and is just now waking up to the fact.
Mildred Natwick, who guest starred in every 60's and 70's TV show you can imagine, is the best thing in the movie as Corie's conservative Mom, matched up on a blind date with the couples eccentric neighbor Victor Velasco. Velasco is like that "most interesting man in the world" guy from the beer commercials, played to the hilt by Charles Boyer (Gaslight, Algiers).
Simon beats you over the head with a painfully repetitive gag about their being no elevator to the newlywed's fifth floor walk up, forces you to feel sorry for Redford, turns Fonda into a grating bride and then resolves the whole thing with the dramatic flair of the last five minutes of any Brady Bunch episode.
I guess this was funny 50 years ago.
Now, not so much. Barefoot gets a C-