Sunday 4 December 2016

Movie Review: Sunday In New York (1963)

A romantic comedy exploring the changing rules of sex and relationships, Sunday In New York has enough courage to tackle its subject matter with a good degree of frankness, and a cast in fine form to tease out effective moments of comedy.

Eileen (Jane Fonda) comes to New York to visit her brother Adam (Cliff Robertson), a dashing airline pilot enjoying the bachelor life. Eileen has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend Russ (Robert Culp), because she refused his advances to have sex before marriage. She is now wondering if her old-fashioned attitudes need an overhaul. Adam goes out on a date with Mona (Jo Morrow), one of his girlfriends, while Eileen has a chance encounter on a Fifth Avenue bus with the handsome Mike (Rod Taylor). Their first attempt at a chat over coffee is a disaster.

But fate brings Eileen and Mike together again, and a rainstorm means that they end up soaking wet back at Adam's apartment. Eileen decides this is her opportunity to finally lose her virginity, but her plans will meet an unexpected hurdle. Meanwhile, Adam and Mona face troubles of their own, with his on-call pilot duty severely disrupting their romantic pursuits. The day in New York gets much wilder when the oblivious Russ shows up, wanting to win his girl back.

Directed by Peter Tewksbury and written by Norman Krasna (adapting his play), Sunday In New York reflects its era: an airline pilot as a magnet for women, a tide of sexual liberation challenging long-held attitudes, and feminism taking hold and allowing women to ask previously unthinkable questions about relationship rules. The film leans towards lauding more conservative views, but earns points for airing out emerging topics.

Tewksbury does well in breaking out the story from its stage confines, and finds reasons for his characters to go out and about in a vibrant New York. Despite the generally sharp dialogue, some scenes are talky and go on longer than necessary. But for the most part the film achieves the requisite balance between idealized romance and screwball comedy.

And the laughs do register. Once Russ shows up in New York to reclaim Eileen's affections and propose to her, an intentional mess of mistaken identities sparks the film into some excellent comic moments. Cliff Robertson, Rod Taylor and Robert Culp create a watchable trio of men uncomfortably pushed outside their normal boundaries. The side story of the airline pilot Adam and his would-be lover-of-the-day Mona contriving to always end up apart - far apart - also creates some good manic moments.

The romance also works well within the confines of the genre, and the two leads quickly find the requisite chemistry. Jane Fonda shines in an early role, and succeeds in portraying a confident yet searching 22 year old charting a new course on the fly. What Eileen needs most is a navigator for a brave new world filled with untested rules for relationships between men and women, and Rod Taylor creates in Mike the ideal man, handsome, assured, vaguely available, world-wise but still chivalrous.

Sunday In New York is a day to relax, laugh and try to disentangle the increasingly convoluted guidelines for courtship.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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