Mike Nichols’ Carnal Knowl; Editorge is a rather superficial and limited probe of American male sexual hypocrisies. Jules Feiffer’s episodic story follows for over 20 years the diverse paths of Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel as each tries to match their sexual fantasies with an uncooperative reality.
First, Nicholson and Garfunkel are college roommates in the 1940s, where Candice Bergen is the object of attention. Garfunkel, the more sensitive, wins her heart over Nicholson, whose ability to betray close friends is neatly established.
Time jumps ahead about a decade to the late 1950s. Nicholson falls in his own way for Ann-Margret, a sexpot who really would like to get married and have kids. Nicholson still can’t cope, and at the same time introduces Garfunkel – now a slightly bored suburban husband – to Cynthia O’Neal.
The final 13 minutes are set in the late 1960s. Garfunkel has gone mod, latching onto Carol Kane, a hippie nymphet, while Nicholson has been reduced to periodic visits to Rita Moreno, a for-hire playmate who helps him play out his fantasies.
The story pussyfoots round some underlying psychological and psychiatric hangups. Nicholson’s compulsive stud character is the type that hates women. The film fails by avoiding confrontation with his character.
1971: Nomination: Best Supp. Actress (Ann-Margret)