By Richard Winters
My Rating: 8 out of 10
4-Word Review: Dating a rich girl.
One day while at a pool party Neil (Richard Benjamin) becomes infatuated with beautiful Brenda (Ali MacGraw) and proceeds to begin a relationship with her. He has just recently graduated from college and still not quite sure what direction he wants to take in life. He doesn’t want to fully ‘drop-out’, but isn’t so excited about diving in to the corporate business world where making a lot of money is the only focus. Brenda on the other hand is from a rich Jewish family who enjoys her privileged lifestyle, but not always the pretension that comes with it. She continues to date Neil simply out of spite to her mother (Nan Martin) who doesn’t approve, but as things progress their differences and values become more pronounced and sends the relationship teetering on the brink.
Director Larry Peerce did some high quality films during the sixties and it is unfortunate that by the seventies his output dropped off. I think overall this is his most complete work and a wonderful compliment to the Philip Roth novella from which it is based. The location shooting is outstanding and one of the main things that gives the film a personality. The giant suburban house in which Brenda’s family lives makes one of the biggest impressions not only with its large exterior, but interior as well where every room is wallpapered with its own distinct color and design. The library where Neil works is also visually impressive especially with its large marble columns and painted cathedral ceilings.
The film is filled with a lot of memorable and amusing scenes. Neil’s interactions with Brenda’s ten-year-old younger sister Julie (Lori Shelle) is entertaining not only with a game of hoops that the play, but most especially their ping pong contest that they play later. Neil’s attempted conversation with a deaf man while inside the library is funny as is seeing Neil sneaking into Brenda’s bedroom each night when the parents are asleep. You also got to love Neil’s shocked response when he finds out Brenda has not been taking the pill and the scenes at the wedding reception of Brenda’s brother is filled with a lot of keen observations. If you look closely you will be able to spot Bette Midler, Michael Nouri, Jacklyn Smith and Susan Lucci as wedding guests.
MacGraw has never looked more beautiful and Peerce spends several minutes lovingly photographing her swimming in the pool, which isn’t bad. Her performance as a spoiled rich girl going through fits of rebellion, but not quite ready to completely break from her soft lifestyle is on-target and proves that she is not just a pretty face, but an excellent actress as well. Although already 30 at the time she plays a 20-year-old quite convincingly.
Michael Meyers as Brenda’s older brother Ron is a scene stealer not only with his empty ‘discussions’ with Neil, but also with the way he orders around the other workers as a supervisor at a job he wouldn’t have had, had he not been the owner’s son. This proved to be his one and only movie appearance. He eventually became a physician in real-life and wrote an autobiography entitled ‘Goodbye Columbus, Hello Medicine’.
In some ways I saw a lot of similarities to this film and The Graduate and consider it to be just as much of a classic. I enjoyed the way the film explores the different stages of the relationship and the final argument the two have is quite revealing.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
Released: April 3, 1969
Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes
Director: Larry Peerce
Available: VHS, DVD, Laser disc, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube