Willie & phil is an amiable and humane film about a menage-a-trois spanning the 1970s. Director Paul Mazursky’s compassionate eye for character and his wry wit, balance out a tendency to overromanticize and sentiment- alize his characters.
Michael Ontkean and Ray Sharkey play the title characters (roles once intended for Woody Allen and Al Pacino) and Margot Kidder completes the romantic triangle, which forms in Greenwich Village at the beginning of the 1970s and winds up in Malibu nine years later. Along the way, Mazursky deftly traces changing sexual mores and other social values while portraying the trio as typical representatives of their generation’s hopes and confusions.
Beginning rather coyly with the two men meeting at a Blecker Street Cinema screening of Truffaut’s classic 1962 film about a menage-a-trois, Jules et Jim, Mazursky then has the two become friends so inseparable that they have trouble deciding who should board with Kidder.
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It’s all handled in very civilized and low-key fashion by Mazursky and his characters.