Thursday, October 18, 2012

Declassified: "A Touch of Class" (1973)

"A Touch of Class" was nominated for half a dozen Oscars, and Glenda Jackson won the Best Actress Award. Why?

George Segal is Steve, an American living in London. He has a lovely wife named Gloria (Hildegard Neil) and kids. He is also on the prowl for some tail, and finds it in fashion designer Vickie (Glenda Jackson), a divorcee with kids. Immediately, the two are attracted to each other, and nonchalantly make plans to spend a week together in Spain.

While in Spain, and through a bunch of maneuvers that can only happen in the movies, the pair are sighted by Steve's friend Walter (Paul Sorvino) and his wife Patty (K Callan). The cards are stacked against Steve and Vickie (who bicker and argue constantly), and Walter advises the two break up.

Steve and Vickie go back to London, and take a flat together in a building full of prostitutes. Steve and Vickie bicker and argue some more, Steve always finds a way to run out on his saintly wife, and the film ends on a sour note.

Although filmed in 1973, this script feels like a screwball romantic comedy from the 1940's, but with profanity and sex added to make it modern. The idea that these two people would get together is so unbelievable to begin with, we are supposed to automatically cheer for the adulterous insurance salesman and his horny lover. Rose and Frank give us no emotional involvement in these characters, and then sends them through a goofy courtship and awkward slapstick scenes. I was not charmed by this duo, I was repelled.

Jackson and Segal have great chemistry, but the script mostly asks them to constantly yell at each other, slam doors, and bug their eyes out. Frank also has an annoying habit of using closeups of his cast at all the wrong times. While the movie gets better when the pair return to London, and Steve makes the funny excuses to step out on his wife, the bitter ending will make the viewer wonder why they invested even an hour and forty five minutes in the angry lives of these two people. On the other hand, it is nice to watch a romantic comedy where the leads are in their thirties, and the climax does not involve a big dance, a big game, or a big party.

"A Touch of Class" feels awkward, plays awkward, and rarely generates its awkward laughs. It is a loud, obnoxious, overrated comedy that needed a touch of class itself. (* *) out of five stars.