Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 13. 1970
Mazursky's Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice is another of Hollywood's affectionate self satires, but one that remains indecisive
Mazursky's Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice is another of Hollywood's affectionate self satires, but one that remains indecisive.
Bob (Robert Culp), a documentary film maker, and his wife Carol (Natalie Wood) attend a therapeutic group-confession clinic and return to their lives enlightened by a desire for total honesty and universal love. They embaress hotel waiters with their frankness and amaze their closest friends, Ted (Elliott Could) and Alice (Dyan Cannon) by openly accepting each other's one night stands.
Alice takes some time to adjust to the new outlook, yet despite her initial disgust, it is she who encourages the group to conduct an orgy in their has Vegas hotel room. They refuse. "Cop out!" she yells. Later, after arguments and successive 'insights', they all climb into the double bed, and 'cop out' they did.
All this I suppose was intended to be a send-up of wife swapping and the morals of affluent high life (or something) but the script,. while clever at times, has no real incisive strength. For most of the time it drifts. The story-line travels full circle from soul-searching type gazing at the therapy resort to the intense eye locking in the closing shots outside the hotel. What fills, in between is generally mediocre and vague, and the standpoint is extremely ambiguous (give or take an obvious snigger).
There are some good scenes, Bob's benevolence to Carol's astonished lover, the local tennis coach (and foreign too). Alice's consultation with a psychoanalyst concerning her sexual hang ups, with Donald Munich cleverly under-playing his role. And the superb bedroom scene between Ted and Alice where the dialogue at last rings authentic.
Bob and Carol must always be telling each other, and anyone else within earshot, how they feel. Steeped in their psychology orientated milieau, they reduce everything to the conscious intellect. For them the way to honesty is through a continual monotonous verbal strip-tease. Sterile and pointless. Nothing is left to intuition or spontaneous awareness. What they think they feel is all-important. We are left in doubt as to whether the film laughs at this or condones it, for in the final menage a quatre the feeling is not one of real insight but simply that things would have been different if they had had two bedrooms instead of one.
The result is almost total absence of any body or substance for satire to exist in. Is Mazursky being fervently moral or cynically liberal? It is very easy to move from the question 'what is being laughed at?' to the view that nothing is being laughed at. It is almost as if Rock Hudson and Doris Day have teamed up again after reading Couples. The result—another cop out!