Unassuming and single thirty-three year old Tillie Shlain is at that phase of her life of being known as a soon to be spinster if she doesn't marry soon. She isn't looking forward to ... See full summary »
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Peter Mark Richman
Unassuming and single thirty-three year old Tillie Shlain is at that phase of her life of being known as a soon to be spinster if she doesn't marry soon. She isn't looking forward to meeting the latest in a long string of blind dates, his name being Pete Seltzer. Pete and Tillie are not a match made in heaven, he using wisecracking and constant flirtations with women to mask his own insecurities about his average looks and not wanting to deal with life head on. Despite Tillie's guard being up with regard to Pete, he is able slowly to chip away at her defenses. They do embark on a relationship which ends up in a straightforward and somewhat mutual declaration that they will get married despite their fundamental differences. But can their relationship survive these fundamental differences, which don't change during the course of their marriage, and as they deal with the terminal malignant tumor diagnosis of their nine-year old son, Robbie? Written by
This film was made and released about four years after its source novella "Witch's Milk" by author Peter de Vries was first published in 1968. See more »
The song Strangers In The Night, first recorded in 1966, is heard on a jukebox in a scene set several years earlier. See more »
I wasn't looking forward to this party - or meeting Pete Seltzer. But when you've reached my age and your friends are beginning to worry about you, blind dates are a way of life.
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The main accomplishment of Pete 'n' Tillie is the skill put into it for hitting the symmetry amongst the hilarious and the heartbreaking, between moments of earnest gravitas and other moments of priceless high comedy and even slapstick. What happens in the story is supposed to happen. Life's like that. In one go, Pete 'n' Tillie is an entertainment feat, with its high comic panache, its dexterity with bittersweet dramaturgy and its star turns for its two tremendously talented leads. The special thing about this movie is the way it merges those two tonal styles, with even more subtlety and naturalism than the films of later periods.
Indeed, this is a sharp, surprisingly heartfelt and charming movie of the early '70s, with a skillfully lasting and subdued tone of melancholy. Writer-producer Julius J. Epstein has seized hold of priceless dialogue and a theme of togetherness. The title characters are two sardonically mileage-developing San Francisco pragmatists who meet at a party and like one another virtually in spite of themselves. Owing to their age, they're seasoned enough to realize that "love without irritation is just lust." They get going, wed, raise a bright son and experience a paralyzing family predicament whose subtle, poignant handling is the most appreciable thing about this offbeat love story beholden to George Stevens' superior Penny Serenade.
It's a straightforward comedy that soaks up tragedy without an awkward wrinkle. This owes to the always subtle, sophisticated and refined direction of Martin Ritt, normally helming much less sentimental material, shrewdly of course. Then there is Geraldine Page, as Burnett's well-heeled friend, whose succinct, horrified charade at a police station and the subsequent catfight pack that beautiful release of laughter after a tragic peak. Like most great comics, Burnett, held in rein by a somber, down-to-earth story, is impressive, even in graver moments that feel as if the material was contrived to the point of bathos. Matthau has given more cumbersome performances but none more disarming since The Odd Couple.
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