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Three separate stories concerning relationship issues are presented, each largely taking place in suite 719 of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. In story one, suburban New Yorkers Sam and Karen Nash are spending the night in the hotel as their house is being painted, but more importantly for Karen because it is their twenty-"something" wedding anniversary, the hotel where they spent their honeymoon. While Karen wants to recreate the romance that she remembers of their wedding night, Sam is preoccupied with business matters. But it is other issues that highlight their fundamental differences that may demonstrate if they will make it to twenty-something plus one. In story two, womanizing Hollywood movie producer Jesse Kiplinger has exactly two hours free during his whirlwind stay in New York, which he wants to fill with a quickie. Of the many women he calls, the first to agree to meet at his suite is his old hometown flame, married Muriel Tate. Muriel, who knows what Jesse wants, he who... Written by
I expected this 1971 film to be a bright comedy. Instead I was presented with the filming of a very deep three-part stage play about the dark side of human relationships; only the last of the three stories could really be called funny.
A bride-to-be locks herself in the bathroom and her parents go through all kinds of hilarious slapstick agony trying to persuade her to come out. It is free of the darker undertones of the first two vignettes and has a cute surprise ending with a happy message. The other two, while being wry and witty in places, are really commentaries on the nature of man's unfaithfulness and exploitation of women, and women's culpability in allowing that state of affairs to develop and continue.
Walter Matthau plays the lead in each of the three stories, which take place in the same suite, 719, of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. He has different leading ladies in each one: Maureen Stapleton, Barbara Harris and Lee Grant. There are a few incidental characters but the stories revolve around the two main characters in each story. The dialogue is quite true to real life, even appearing to be repetitive and meaningless in places as real life conversations can be, but the playwright is taking us in each case to a specific understanding of the characters. There is nothing extraneous even though at first it appears to be cluttered with incidentals.
In the first story, a husband and wife check into the Plaza Hotel for their anniversary - and then things begin to fall apart. Maureen Stapleton as the seemingly scatterbrained wife is brilliant in playing both the tragic and comic aspects of this complicated role. As the story unfolds we realize things are not as they appear on the surface.
In the second story, a sleazy Hollywood businessman calls up various names in his little black book so that he can have some woman - any woman - come to his suite for sex from 2 to 4 between meetings. The woman from his past whom he persuades to show up is both afraid of the possible seduction and hoping he will talk her into it. This is all too painful and familiar a scenario and anyone will relate to the awkward dance between two individuals who have to try to save face while getting their needs met.
If you are looking for a light and fluffy comedy this is not the one to choose. It will disturb you and make you think about the tragic aspects of love, sex and marriage, long after it is over.
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