Thursday 31 March 2022

Movie Review: Best Friends (1982)

A romantic comedy, Best Friends aimlessly meanders from a story of couplehood to a dull meet-the-in-laws ordeal.

In Hollywood, Richard Babson and Paula McCullen (Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn) are a successful screenwriting couple. In a relationship for five years, they are now buying a house together and Richard proposes marriage. Paula only reluctantly agrees, fearing that marriage could ruin their close friendship.

After a quickie wedding they set out on a train trip to visit both sets of parents. Paula's folks live in a drafty house in chilly Baltimore. Her father Tim (Barnard Hughes) is long-winded and has lost interest in Paula's mother Eleanor (Jessica Tandy). They are also old-fashioned, placing Richard and Paula in separate beds and treating Richard like a child.

The next stop is a visit to the cramped Virginia apartment of Richard's parents. Ann and Tom Babson (Audra Lindley and Keenan Wynn) are disappointed their son got married without letting them know. Against Paula's wishes they throw a big party for the couple, and Paula resorts to Valium pills to survive the visit. By the time the newlyweds return home, they can barely stand each other.

Two of Hollywood's brightest stars combine, but the results are unfortunately listless. Directed by Norman Jewison, Best Friends is inspired by the true-life relationship of co-writers Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson, but they are unable to infuse neither charm nor wit. The script defaults to structured chapters placing the couple at the mercy of dotty parents for days on end, and what starts as an exploration of long-term commitment hazards drifts into mostly unfunny vignettes about eccentric elderly folks.

Plenty of logic gaps do not help. Richard and Paula have been together for five years, and yet have never met each other's parents. And for a career-savvy couple in a long-term commitment, they are very quick to emotionally abandon each other when their parents start to act like parents. 

Reynolds and Hawn are always watchable, and try to salvage the material. They are at their natural, playful, and sexy best as Richard and Paula enjoy a brief train honeymoon on the way to Baltimore. But then the sitcom structure kicks in, and the momentum stalls.

The final act features Richard and Paula back in Hollywood and locked in a room by film producer Larry (Ron Silver) to complete screenplay rewrites. Shouting devolves into a brief but still distasteful act of violence, while the couple trade inane lines of script. Rather than pretend to work on a screenplay, Best Friends should have actually done so.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.