Neil Simon’s excellent adaptation of his 1968 Broadway hit stars Walter Matthau in three strong characterizations of comedy-in-depth, teamed separately with Maureen Stapleton, Lee Grant and Barbara Harris.
Film opens with a 44-minute sketch featuring Stapleton as a nervous suburban wife who has taken her bridal suite at NY’s Plaza Hotel while the paint dries at home. Hubby Matthau is a cool, jaded mate whose affair with secretary Louise Sorel is intuitively divined by the wife. Segment is the most dramatic, though filled with nervous comedy.
Middle episode is 33 minutes of lecherous farce, as Hollywood producer Matthau puts the make on Harris, a flame of 15 years past. She has become a reluctant matron of Tenafly, NJ. Some of the best laughs of the whole piece occur here.
Final 37 minutes involve father-of-the-bride Matthau, trying to coax frightened daughter Jenny Sullivan out of a locked hotel bathroom and into marriage to Thomas Carey. Grant is the harried mother. The comedy emphasis here is generally slapstick: rain-drenched clothes; torn tails and stockings; broken furniture.
Each of the femme stars is given much screen time and the result not only is excellent spotlighting of their own talents, but also an adroit restraint on Matthau’s presence.