Tuesday 11 August 2020

Movie Review: The Owl And The Pussycat (1970)

A supposed romantic comedy, The Owl And The Pussycat consists of two distinctly unlikable characters screaming at each other for the best part of 95 minutes.

In a New York City apartment building, aspiring author Felix Sherman (George Segal) spots his neighbour Doris (Barbra Streisand) in the middle of a prostitute transaction and gets her evicted. She barges into his unit in the middle of the night and refuses to leave. She professes to be an actress and model and only rarely a hooker, and accuses him of being gay. They argue loudly, and as result of the commotion Felix is also evicted. They both seek refuge at the apartment of his friend Barney, where they continue their incessant verbal sparring.

Some level of cool shock value probably accompanied the transition of The Owl And The Pussycat from stage to screen in 1970, undoubtedly helped by Streisand in a series of risque outfits, but nothing can save the film from a fingernails-on-chalkboard level of awfulness. Being trapped with the meek Felix and insufferable Doris for an hour and a half is a special kind of torture, and director Herbert Ross is unable to salvage any semblance of an engaging narrative to relieve the confined tedium.

Doris is a dimwit gum chewing sex kitten who only stops talking when she starts shouting, Felix is a spineless bookstore clerk pretending to be an author, and the only good thing that can be said about them as a couple is that they deserve to heap misery on each other. However, nothing they say or do is remotely funny, romantic, or worth watching.

Ross repeatedly goes to the same few joke attempts (Doris can't sleep! Felix uses big words that Doris does not understand!) before resorting to the marijuana joint, which only briefly interrupts all the yelling. The film ends where it started, the couple still bickering and trading insults and abuse, but now they may also be in love, a case of unconvincing romance blossoming in a field of utter dross.

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