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A common friend's sudden death brings three men, married with children, to reconsider their lives and ultimately leave together. But mindless enthusiasm for regained freedom will be short-lived. Written by
The scene at the bar where Leola Harlow tries to sing "It Was Just a Little Love Affair" and is repeatedly interrupted and harshly criticized by the drunken three main characters, was completely improvised. Harlow reportedly had no idea that they were filming and thought the lead actors were actually criticizing her performance in the scene, causing the very real hurt apparent in her performance. See more »
There are no closing credits and no "THE END" title card. The screen just goes black. In the opening credits, everyone involved in the film (even the "little people") are credited on two "tell all" title cards, right on down from the actors to the grips, a total of 82 credits. See more »
a little over-long but with plenty of insightful, touching moments about the lack of connecting with others
John Cassavetes has a wonderful yet also curious way of how he deals with his protagonists- not just in Husbands but in elsewhere- that brings to mind someone like Bergman but not at the same time. His characters, to me anyway, seem like they're full of life and vigor and laughs and what may be called braggadocio behavior, but it also is a cover for something missing for them too. Husbands casts its main male characters in the light of what should be a time of mourning, for one of the friends in their tight-knit group that dies suddenly in middle age. We never hear about who this guy was or how much significance he had in specifics to them, but one can just tell the impact it's made on them as they have to hide away- maybe on some kind of "guy" instinct- not to show what they really mean to say or feel. Even when they're drunk, they end up having to put an affront, which can sometimes be pretty amusing and very typical of a New York style of 'hey, whaddaya want from me' communication. But outside the confines of a comfortable marriage and kids, these guys are to one degree or another emotional wrecks. Where Bergman had religion and the margin of death as the backdrop usually used, Cassavetes has the suburban malaise and childish, male camaraderie where having a good time seems to be all there is.
Here, Cassavetes acts as well, and to me his character has one of the most important scenes, if not the most important, in the film dealing with this matter. He, Gus, is with Harry (Ben Gazzara, who got robbed of an Oscar nomination) and Archie (Peter Falk, who is, as usual, Peter Falk), when they decide sort of impulsively to break off of their jobs in the days following their friend's death to go to London. What they're their for isn't totally clear, until they start to hit on women at a ritzy casino. They take back the women to the hotel rooms they've rented, and Gus seems to be having the most fun of all with the woman he sweet talked (which is a nice little scene of charm and sexual interplay with just words), and they tussle around in a bed, with that thin line between joking and seriousness being ebbed every which way. This is in line with other scenes in the film like this, little ones that show Gus's attitudes towards life as being sort of a gas even in the more serious moments. But then Gus and the lady go to a little café the next morning, and she- obviously the more adult one of the two- wants to know straight-out what he really wants from her. He can barely say anything, as he's sort of stopped in his tracks by her serious "I'm serious" talk to him. The kidding subsides, and what's left is that tense sensation that reality of his own lack of expressing himself completely has smacked him right in the face, and getting aggressive only will make it worse.
This tends to be something of a common thread with the other characters, however in different degrees. Gazarra's Harry is probably the most flawed, if one had to pick out flaws out of these totally human characters (no clichés precisely attached), who is so torn from himself that he lashes out at his wife when expecting her to say to him "I love you". You almost can't believe he can treat her this way, but it's how it is, in the Cassavetes world. Falk too is playing a guy who is sort of torn from himself emotionally, only he is somewhat more able to express it, and is more contradictory perhaps than the others. Like with his "liason" with the Asian girl when in London; we think he's really after some sexual contact from all of his asking the women in the casino, like a kid after some candy or something, but once he has this woman (who doesn't speak a word of English) in his reach, and a very intimate reach (in typically intimate Cassavetes long-take close-up) he resists. This is a little more awkward a reaction than with the other characters, but it does keep in with his own thread, even if he is able to express his own complete emotional cluster-f*** following his friend's death.
So, at the core, Cassavetes gives us some memorable characters here, even if his film seems to be lacking the overwhelming feeling of seeing a classic. He has his goals set, sort of, but he also takes some time meandering to get there too, and a great scene may be followed by a sort of sloppily timed scene where the strengths of the script (and I do think, unlike Ebert's assertion, that it was mostly scripted) were brushed aside for the rata-tat-tat improvisation. For example, towards the end when Harry invited the other guys back in for more fun with NEW women that he's brought up, it goes on in a stilted kind of way, like Cassavetes wanted one more scene of these guys in a form of pretend with themselves and those around them. And actually when he does have a fairly amazing set of moments, like in that very long scene when they're at the bar and everyone's taking turns showing how much 'life' they have in singing a particular song, with one woman not reaching their mark of quality, there's some spots that drag too. The fire and creative pull of Cassavetes in his prime as a filmmaker is present, if not the overall urgency and tightness of narrative. It's worth the viewing, though, more-so if you're looking to find one of Cassavetes's films not on DVD, or for a good, 'indie' mid-life crisis drama.
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