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The Pumpkin Eater
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Pumpkin Eater More at IMDbPro »

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56 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

A Woman Under The Influence.

9/10
Author: seanodartofilm from Ireland
28 May 2006

Great movies remain great movies some of them, like "The Pumpkin Eater" acquire an extra something with the passing of time. Harold Pinter does really extravagant things with Penelope Mortimer's novel and the extraordinary Jack Clayton gives it just the right mixture of human drama and sharp satire. Anne Bancroft is indescribable moving, beautiful, powerful, frightening. Peter Finch is also superb as is James Mason. I particularly enjoyed the brief moments with Yootha Joyce, Maggie Smith and Cederic Hardwicke. I advise all movie lovers in the Los Angeles area to check the American Cinematheque listings. I saw "The Pumpkin Eater" there, a beautifully restored print and reminded me when one went to the movies to see adult themes treated by intelligent adult artist with enormous regard for their audiences. Oh, those were the days.

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59 out of 67 people found the following review useful:

Virtuoso film-making highlights a brutally satiric examination of modern marriage

10/10
Author: andya-5 from Fairfield, Iowa
15 March 2000

The Pumpkin Eater, which for many years was my favorite movie, is a neglected masterpiece of the British New Wave. I'm not sure whether its lack of recognition is attributable more to its misanthropic point of view or to Jack Clayton's sparse filmography (he never developed the immediately recognizable personal style required for elevation to the auteur pantheon). It didn't help that initial reviewers badly misunderstood the film -- Dwight Macdonald thought it was a typical "women's film", meant to provide erotic titillation! On the other hand, feminist critics probably weren't eager to defend a film that could be interpreted as anti-abortion propaganda (also a misreading). Perhaps a more mature feminism will reclaim this film.

Admittedly, the movie is difficult to understand on a first viewing -- both because of its intricate flashback structure and its complexities of tone and attitude. It took me several viewings to fully sort out the plot, and several more to realize what I was actually seeing -- a very, very black comedy. In this respect it's worth placing with the darkest works of Evelyn Waugh or Henry Green.

The film catches its participants at the top of their form: Pinter never wrote a better screenplay, Anne Bancroft (arguably) never gave a better performance, Peter Finch certainly didn't, and Maggie Smith and James Mason are deliciously evil in supporting roles. There are too many marvelous moments to list them all, but watch especially for the zoo scene between Bancroft and Mason (who are clearly having a great time) and for the slyly-written scene where Finch learns that his wife is pregnant -- again.

So why is it no longer my favorite movie? My admiration for its technique is unabated, but as I get older I find the film's nasty tone harder and harder to take. There's not an admirable human being in the whole movie -- they're all foolish, duplicitous, or vindictive. I can't live with these people, much as I've enjoyed eavesdropping on them over the years.

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34 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Realistic and Disturbing Portrait of a Bad Marriage

Author: mmitsos-1 from Oak Brook
28 November 2004

This is my absolute favorite film of all time, and Anne Bancroft's performance is her best. Made in 1964 and set in London, this film tells the story of a woman who is in the middle of her third marriage, to a screenwriter, played by Peter Finch. Her character, Jo Armitage, is a woman who truly seems to find her self-worth and happiness only when she is pregnant and raising children. Once her children become even only slightly older, she seems to lose her sense of purpose, and allows herself to become quite isolated in the world. Her current husband, the screenwriter, doesn't make matters any better for her either.

This is definitely Anne Bancroft's film all the way, and she is breathtakingly beautiful in it as well. Her portrayal of Jo Armitage paints a very lonely, depressed, lost, and in many ways pathetic character...but it is also strangely my favorite performance of Bancroft. Look also for wonderful supporting performances by James Mason and Maggie Smith. This film weaves a disturbing yet very realistic portrait of a bad marriage (some might just say "marriage"), and it should be studied for its acting and its writing. In addition, Georges Delerue's musical score is superb, and I am always searching for the film's soundtrack, but have had no luck. Thanks to beautiful art direction by Edward Marshall, their home interior is also gorgeous...'60's chic. I've seen this film at least 60 times, and never tire of it. It's a quiet little masterpiece.

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32 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

A fabulous study of of a marriage breakdown and infidelity.

10/10
Author: jamesmowbray (jamesmowbray@msn.com) from Belfast, N.Ireland
26 March 2004

Anne Bancroft shines in this movie as an isolated woman with 5 children trying to cope with lonliness and an unfaithful husband. Her acting in The pumpkin Eater is second to none. You can feel her depression in her every facial expression.

Peter Finch is also superb as the misunderstood husband who in his own way also feels isolated and lonely. He just feels his wife is a baby machine who cares more for bearing children than she doe's for him. But alas the both of them just accept their lot and try to get on with it in their own way. With disastrous results.

A movie spectacular without any fancy special effects or gore. The Pumpkin Eater is just old fashioned movie making at its best. You could not watch this film without feeling profoundly affected by it.

What a masterpiece.

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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

My Favorite Film

10/10
Author: rockstar74 (rockstar74@webtv.net) from Indiana
22 May 2004

I love Mortimer's book and Pinter's script follows it closely. Bancroft has always been my favorite actress and I think this is her greatest performance. I'm glad she flew to England and convinced Jack Clayton to hire her. It is no wonder her talent has been compared to Magnani! Finch and Mason are flawless but it is definitely Bancroft's film. She is so convincing it is as though you can read her character's every thought through her facial expressions. She was robbed of the Academy Award. Yootha Joyce is excellent in a bit part during a beauty parlor scene. The actors in this film are all so good that I feel like I am peering into the lives of real people. Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone who has been unfaithful can relate to this film. I love Clayton's use of flashback to tell Jo's story. I think he was an underrated director. The score by Georges Delerue is beautiful and I wish it were available in his cd catalog.

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24 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

I saw this film as a mother of 5 and identified completely with it .

10/10
Author: kkeane-2 from United States
28 January 2006

As a mother of 5 at the time, I saw this film and never forgot the opening scene of Ann Bancroft in a department store--Harrod's?--having the best nervous breakdown I've ever seen. Believe me , identification doesn't say enough about my feelings. I adored this film and wondered if I would ever see it again. Delighted to find it on your web-site though the one Video available is pretty pricey--any other possibilities for purchase? Also surprised to see that Maggie Smith has a part as Phillpot but I don't recall that character. Certainly Peter Finch was gorgeous and also sensitive, but it was here that I first discovered Ann Bancroft and followed her career for many years. It is a great pleasure to find it again and that others are so fond of it also. I thought the title referred to the child's nursery rhyme "Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn't keep her" great title also, very moving all the way through. James Mason was the "other" I believe. That's all i can manage after so many years.

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21 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant Study Of A Marriage

10/10
Author: dmwhite50
8 January 2001

There are scenes from this movie that have been burned into my memory for years-- Anne Bancroft being accosted a crazed and lonely housewife while in a beauty parlor, her nervous breakdown in the middle of Harrod's in London, James Mason revealing her husband's infidelity to her cruelly while having tea at the zoo-- The Pumpkin Eater is one of my favorite movies. Anne Bancroft never gave a better performance-- she is startlingly good-- plus the excellent Harold Pinter screenplay and the brilliant direction of Jack Clayton-- this film is an eloquent essay on isolation and emptiness among other things. I recommend this film to all serious students of acting, writing, and directing.

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15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Scenes from a Marriage

8/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
8 September 2008

"The Pumpkin Eater" is the story of a bad marriage and a character study of the wife, Jo Armitage (Anne Bancroft) and a partial study of the husband, Jake (Peter Finch). Directed by Jack Clayton and with a screenplay by Harold Pinter, the film has a good deal that is unspoken; it's obtuse at times and can leave the viewer with a lot of questions. It's not a film for everyone, as it moves slowly - I can't see audiences of today going for it - it's totally character driven.

Jo is a woman whose fulfillment comes from children and pregnancy. We first see her standing in her home with a stunned look on her face and reminiscing about different facets of her life. One facet is as a happy young woman living in a barn and being introduced to fledgling screenwriter Jake by her second husband. In the next flashback, she's with Jake and discussing the upcoming marriage with her father (Cedric Hardwicke). He's blunt - she has too many kids - so he offers to pay to send the two oldest boys to boarding school, and he also leases a house for them.

The film is not entirely in flashback. It switches back and forth and finally settles in the present. Quite early on, we return to Jo today standing in the house. She goes to Harrod's and has a nervous breakdown.

Jo is in love with a man who loves her as best he can, but it's not enough for her. They have a child together, and though he loves and is good to all of the children, they get in the way of his relationship with Jo. He invites her to a film set in Morocco; she doesn't go. She becomes pregnant again; he tells her that he thought at this point, with the money they have, that they would be free to travel. Now they're back where they started. We suspect when we meet a young woman, Philpot (Maggie Smith) who stays with the family for a time because she's been put out of her flat, that Jake cheats. Jo suspects it; he denies it. Then she gets some devastating news from an odd friend (James Mason).

One is really left with a bad feeling about marriage, and as someone on this board pointed out, it's easy to see both sides of the situation. The psychiatrist Jo sees asks her, can she only justify having sex if she becomes pregnant? When the psychiatrist tells her he's going away for two weeks and can't see her, he tries to make future appointments and she says she can't make it. She evidently feels rejection very easily. Jo needs to be needed and wanted, and she loves the honeymoon -the new man, the new baby - but she can't handle much of the aftermath.

The film doesn't take sides. It's a fascinating story of what two people can do to one another and what people attract into their lives.

Anne Bancroft is one of the greatest actresses of all time and one of the most ravishingly beautiful. You'll never see her name in a list of top beauties because even with her huge, luminous eyes, her classically sculpted face, her thick hair and her gorgeous smile and her husky voice, she was never about her looks. She was always about a great, committed performance. Bancroft does more with her eyes and facial expressions here than most actresses can do with a ton of dialogue. The camera doesn't love her, it adores her, and here closeups are used to great advantage. Her performance is quietly stunning, quietly shattering, just like her face. She devastates the viewer here in a different way from her more overt performance in "The Miracle Worker," but she still devastates. What a loss to film and the theater.

Peter Finch is excellent as Jake - very handsome and sexy, warm with the children - you could really see why he was so adored by women, and I for one didn't understand why Jo wasn't on every film set with him all day, every day. He's two men, really - he's a husband who does love his wife, but he's emotionally childish as well and takes his frustrations and anger out by sleeping with other women.

"The Pumpkin Eater" is one of those films that you might not even care for while watching it. You might not even totally get what's going on all the time, but it will stay with you. You'll go over it in your head, and you won't forget it. In this way, it reminds me of two brilliant movies, "Damage" and "In the Bedroom" - like those films, "The Pumpkin Eater" is a harrowing experience.

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15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

overlooked gem

9/10
Author: bookwoman-3 from California, U.S.A.
9 November 2005

I came upon this movie on late night t.v. a few years back. I really love Anne Bancroft and I think that she is, not underrated, but more correctly, overlooked as a great actress. This film is a wonderful study of a marriage in trouble and Ms. Bancroft and the great Peter Finch are so believable as lovers and as a married couple that I wondered why I had never even heard of the film before. I felt their pain - wait, sorry . . . I think someone else named Clinton coined that phrase. But seriously, Anne Bancroft is able to really convey heartbreaking loneliness that you just want to cry or help her in some way. I love movies that engage you thoroughly. If you enjoy movies that make you think and also have a viewpoint about human relations, please try to find this film. An added bonus is a wonderful appearance in a small role by Maggie Smith - certainly a very early one in her career. I really like finding gems like this!

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Classy, even if feelings are kept at bay

9/10
Author: Martin Bradley (MOscarbradley@aol.com) from Derry, Ireland
19 August 2007

If "The Pumpkin Eater" has a fault it is that it's so glacial, so cocooned in its world of upper-middle class ennui it may leave you feeling a little drained. Otherwise, this is quite close to perfection. Adapted, superbly and to the extent that he makes it his own, from Penelope Mortimer's novel, by Harold Pinter it tells the story of Jo, (Anne Bancroft), a thrice married mother of several children, (by all three husbands), whose life has started to spectacularly unravel. Jo seems to be the kind of woman who can't stop having children but who doesn't seem cut out for motherhood. Inflicting her existing brood on Jake, (Peter Finch), husband No. 3, does little for their marriage. Jake is an incorrigible philanderer or maybe he just can't stand being at home with a pack of screaming, spoiled brats. Then again he's 'a screen-writer' so his profession offers both glamour and the opportunity for multiple infidelities. Things come to a head when Jo has a mental breakdown 'in Harrods of all places' to quote Jake.

Being Pinter, the film is both elliptical and chilly. It's magnificently made, (the director is Jack Clayton), but you struggle to feel anything for Jo or Jake. It's a world that Pinter and company know well but the rest of us may well feel we are being kept at a distance. But don't let that put you off; if you want your mind engaged at the expense of your emotions you will have a high old time. This is classy, intelligent stuff.

It is superbly cast and played. Some performances don't amount to more than cameos, (Cedric Hardwicke and Alan Webb as Jo and Jake's fathers, Maggie Smith smilingly stealing Jo's husband right from under her nose and best of all, Yootha Joyce as the vindictive and unstable woman in the hairdressers). At the centre there is Bancroft and Finch as the couple struggling through their marriage and they are both marvelous. Finch, in particular, gives Jake an air of likability that may be absent from the script and Bancroft gets Jo's vulnerability spot on. As the husband of Jake's most recent conquest, James Mason is magnificently venomous and his scenes with Bancroft at the zoo and his final scene with Finch, ('You made me wet'), are master-classes in the art of acting.

The movie came out in 1964 and quickly disappeared. Watching it recently with a friend he described it as 'a miserable film' and while I think it a superb film, a near-masterpiece, I know exactly what he means. It is a film distinctly lacking in 'nice' characters and it generates very little warmth. Audiences who, back in the sixties might have admired the film, were unlikely to feel anything towards it and consequently it is seldom revived. A pity because, cold as it is, it is also one of the finest films of its decade.

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