Wednesday 2 February 2022

Movie Review: Unfaithfully Yours (1984)

A revenge comedy, Unfaithfully Yours reaches for sophisticated laughs in high society, but rarely hits the right notes.

In New York City, celebrated orchestra conductor Claude Eastman (Dudley Moore) returns from a successful trip to London, and prepares for a performance featuring star violinist and ladies magnet Max Stein (Armand Assante). Claude is married to the much younger Italian actress Daniella (Nastassja Kinski), and his entourage includes manager Norman (Albert Brooks) and butler Giuseppe (Richard Libertini). 

Thanks to bumbling private detective Keller (Richard B. Shull), Claude stumbles upon evidence Daniella may be having an affair with Max. Enraged by jealousy, he plots an elaborate revenge for the night of the big concert. But while he imagines the perfect plan, reality will turn out to be much different.

A remake of the 1948 Preston Sturges comedy, Unfaithfully Yours has only a slight story to tell despite the involvement of three writers (including Barry Levinson). Director Howard Zieff delivers one good scene featuring duelling violins at a nightclub, then aims for the centrepiece sequence of Claude imagining his perfect murder while energetically conducting the orchestra, quickly followed by the reality of his best laid plans going quite wrong. It's a good final act aided by silly Halloween masks, but getting there gets a bit drudgerous.

At the appropriate comedic scale, Claude and Daniella do convey a sense of underlying love as two artists giving romance a whirl if for no other reason than joint inspiration and shared glamour. But then the film leans too heavily on the painfully slow process of Claude's jealousy building, followed by identifying Max as the alleged Lothario, then a series of more-irritating-than-funny communications breakdowns to stoke the flames of rage. 

The script lacks a cutting edge, and so Dudley Moore sputters and strides this way and that, caught somewhere between aspirations of worldliness and juvenile physical comedy. The surrounding cast is rich with talent, but every character is strictly confined to a single definition.

With enjoyable classical music and glitzy cinematography, Unfaithfully Yours exists in a classy milieu. Too bad the humour arrives poorly dressed for the occasion.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here. 

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