By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Gypsy out on bail.
Alex is a middle-aged bail bondsman who is down on life and masks his disappointments with cynicism. By chance he meets the beautiful Maritza (Genevieve Bujold) a young gypsy woman who travels the countryside reading people’s palms and futures for a living. When she is accused of trying to kill her father and thrown into jail Alex decides to post her 30,000 dollar bail in an attempt for a brief romantic fling, but she instead spends the whole time trying to escape and keeping the overly-stressed Alex constantly on guard to prevent it.
The film has a pleasantly laid-back, free-spirited style to it that at times does meander, but nicely reflects the attitude and feeling of the decade that it is in. Director John Korty wisely pulls back and doesn’t try to over-direct, but instead allows his talented cast to carry the picture by creating well-defined and relatable characters. The dialogue and conversations are full of dry, acerbic wit and just the right amount of jaded sensibilities to keep it hip and real.
Lemon is great and has grown as an actor by taking on roles that are more world-weary and edgy and going light years from the clean-cut, all-American young man type characters that he played in the comedies from the 50’s and early 60’s where he always was naïve and in-over-his-head. Here the character is like an extension of the one he played in Save the Tiger that being a middle-aged man who has lost his faith in everything and everyone and yet still holds out for that elusive moment of magic. His side comments are amusing making this one of his funniest and most endearing performances.
Bujold is ravishing and in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen her looking better. Korty seems to know how to photograph her in just the right way by making full use of her prominent and alluring eyes. Her moments on screen give off a subtly sensual quality. Her nude scenes aren’t bad either particularly when she is lying handcuffed to a bed almost emotionless while Lemmon, who is under the covers, attempts to have sex with her.
James Woods is also terrific showing a surprising knack for comedy as Alex’s nerdy and timid assistant. Although his character has only limited screen time he skillfully manages to almost steal the film from his two more established co-stars especially in a scene in the bail office where Alex gets bribed by a mafia criminal as well as another one inside a hospital where he tries to explain to Alex why he foolishly allowed Maritza to get away.
The ending is the film’s only real letdown. It is not a particularly bad one, but it is a little too cute and doesn’t seem to mesh well with the rest of the film. It also offers no real conclusion and leaves the viewer hanging as to what ultimately became of these characters. A little more of a side-story particularly the one involving the bounty hunter (Todd Martin) might have given the film a bit more excitement and dimension.
I also wasn’t too crazy about Henry Mancini’s melodic and serene score. He’s a great composer for sure, but something with more of an acoustic or modern folk rock tinge might have fit the story’s theme and mood better.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: October 3, 1976
Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes
Director: John Korty
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: None at this time.