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California Suite
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Reviews & Ratings for
California Suite More at IMDbPro »

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25 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

A mixed bag

Author: mjtsmm2027 from London
12 December 2004

Having always felt that Neil Simon's work, though generally wonderful, can be hit and miss, California Suite seems to represent this more than any of his other pieces. Clearly he is a writer for performers and how well some of them respond here. Jane Fonda gives a remarkably assured and confident performance mixing vulnerability with stubbornness so effortlessly. Yes her segment is perhaps, stripped down, just the age old East/West Coast argument but it becomes a very human story about 2 people who were once in love. So great to see such a female character like hers on the screen and Jane Fonda is so skilled at introducing pathos whilst still being able to somewhat distance the viewer. It really is ultimately a very touching episode. The Caine/Smith segment is also tremendous fun with Dame Maggie doing her Margo Channing bit. The Oscar she won for this tributes her comic skills here which have perhaps been underused in her career. The wonderful Elaine May also stands out in a true farce with Mr Matthau but The Pryor/Cosby section is plainly, embarrassingly bad. It feels as if it was written by a poor sitcom writer and there are enoguh embarrassing sitcoms from America polluting the world's television. All in all, a very watchable film but wouldn't you just love to have the facility to edit films for your own viewing.

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20 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Sunny, likable movie, with flaws

Author: sreed99342 from New York, NY
21 June 2004

I've always liked this movie, ever since I saw it in the theater as a 12-year-old. (With my church youth group, no less -- what were they thinking??) It's flawed, but generally fun, and I like the sun-soaked, palm-fringed atmosphere.

Maggie Smith is the undisputed standout. Her portrayal is brilliant and she and Michael Caine fling one-liners at each other with biting abandon. I've always liked both Jane Fonda and Alan Alda, so I enjoy their storyline too, though their exchanges seem forced and a little too clever. I'm a Cosby fan, but his scenes with Richard Pryor are uncomfortable -- it's troubling that the film's only black characters are relegated to brute physical comedy. Walter Matthau and Elaine May do a great job, but I never liked the hooker skit -- not sure why.

I buy very few films, but I do own this one, and over the years I've watched it so many times I know all the lines...

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16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

My brief review of the film

Author: sol- from Perth, Australia
29 June 2005

An ensemble cast that dreams are made of is present in this film, and all deliver quite well, even Walter Matthau who goes a bit over-the-top. Smith deservedly won an Oscar for her role as a screen actress loses her first Oscar nomination in a very long career. As her husband, Caine is also good, but the next two best performances come from Fonda and Alda as a bickering divorced couple. Those four performers, however, only cover two out of four tales in this film, and the other two are not as well as acted and neither are they filled with the same quality of witty dialogue. It is bit weird to watch the overall film, as it becomes fragmented by the transitions between each of the stories, and towards the end the lesser interesting tales dominate. With just the Fonda/Alda and Smith/Caine stories, this is excellent, very well written stuff. With all four put together, it is still quite interesting stuff, but nothing too great.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Mediocre Simon is better than none...

Author: Isaac5855 from United States
8 December 2005

California SUITE is the 1978 film adaptation of Neil Simons' quartet of one-acts set at swank Los Angeles hotel. Out of the four stories, the strongest is "Visitors from London" which stars Maggie Smith as an actress in town for the Academy Awards after receiving her first nomination, in deep denial about her in-name only marriage to a closeted antique dealer (Michael Caine). Smith delivers a flawless comedy performance that ironically won her her second Oscar, this time for Best Supporting Actress. Caiine is just as effective in this bittersweet tale. "Visitors from New York" stars Jane Fonda as a workaholic New Yorker who has flown to California to retrieve her daughter (Dana Plato) who flew away from home to move in with Fonda's ex (Alan Alda). Fonda's character is a little on the unsympathetic side but she and Alda make their scenes work. "Visitors from Philadelphia" stars Walter Matthau as a man in town for a convention who tries to conceal from his visiting wife (Elaine May) that there's a passed out hooker in his bed. This episode is pure slapstick with little substance but Matthau makes it bearable. The other episode "Visitors from Chicago" stars Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Sheila Frazier, and Gloria Gifford as two couples vacationing together who get involved in some silly travel situations. This is definitely the weakest of the four playlets and looks like it should be in another movie of its own. A well-mounted, but spotty effort at best, California SUITE is worth the rental for the glorious performance of Maggie Smith alone.

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13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Too few scenes with Maggie Smith and Michael Caine

Author: Smartdoggy-1 from Germany
28 March 2005

I think the movie contains funny parts, but some scenes are not that interesting, for example Alan Alda talking way too much stuff. So I think it's only about average. I must say, though, that Michael Caine and Maggie Smith did great work. They are a nice couple and really fit together very well. In my opinion their scenes are the best of the movie. I love their funny and sarcastic conversations - it's entertaining and one of the reasons I actually watched the movie until the end. I'm just a little disappointed that they don't show up as often as I'd like. It would've been more interesting that way. Of course there are lots of other big names in that movie, e.g. Walter Matthau, Alan Alda and Jane Fonda, but I must really underline Maggie Smith's and Michael Caine's good performances.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Plain average

Author: Bjorn (ODDBear) from Iceland
13 August 2005

Four stories, courtesy of Neil Simon, concerning the ongoings of several people staying at a nice hotel in sunny California.

Walter Matthau's segment provides the film's only real laughs. Desperately trying to cover up his infidelity, Matthau is a riot in his attempts.

Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor try their best as doctor friends who are having an awful time on their vacation with their wives. It's just not that funny, despite them both being extremely likable.

Alan Alda and Jane Fonda do well in their dramatic story of separated couple meeting after nine years to discuss their child. Their segment is too short to really have an impact, might have worked well as a feature film. It's not all that involving.

Michael Caine and Maggie Smith are both excellent in their little segment, with Smith portraying an actress who's up for the academy award. Caine plays her show off gay husband. The two stars really shine in an otherwise average story, not all that interesting.

I feel that California Suite should have been much better, it had such potential. It's just plain average.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

California Suite- A Sweetie of A Film ***1/2

Author: edwagreen from United States
17 September 2007

Neil Simon focuses his attention on a variety of people at a hotel in this 1978 comedy hit.

Walter Matthau certainly has a penchant as a hotel guest. Remember him with Maureen Stapleton and several other ladies in another hotel farce comedy-drama?

Matthau, as always, is hilarious when he attempts to hide a hooker from his wife. It seems that Elaine May is always the naive victim in films. Remember her in 1972's "The Heartbreak Kid?"

The real acting kudos here goes to Maggie Smith for a gem of a supporting Oscar-winning performance in this film. Smith plays an actress at the hotel who has been nominated for an Oscar. A win would mean a tremendous comeback for her. Naturally, she loses. How many people have won Oscars for playing an Oscar loser in a film? Judy Garland accomplished the opposite in 1954 in "A Star is Born." In the film she is an actress who wins the academy award but in real-life competition lost it to Grace Kelly for "The Country Girl." Only the lord knows why.

Smith is just grand as she prances around the room delivering memorable one-liners. This is just a gem of a film.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Worth it for one of the all-time great scenes

Author: blanche-2 from United States
7 December 2009

Neil Simon's 1978 film, California Suite, is four vignettes of couples descending upon Los Angeles at Oscar time: one couple (Maggie Smith and Michael Caine) for the Oscar ceremonies, two couples for vacation (Richard Pryor, Gloria Gifford, Bill Cosby, Sheila Frazer) one couple for a bar mitzvah (Walter Matthau and Elaine May), and one divorced couple (Alan Alda and Jane Fonda) to discuss their daughter.

The film is a mix of comedy, slapstick, and drama, with the Fonda-Alda segment witty but serious, the Matthau-May segment hilarious, the Cosby-Pryor segment slapstick, and the Smith-Caine segment a classic. Their conversation in the hotel suite before the Oscar ceremony is one of the best acted, best written scenes ever written. "I'm a dark horse," Smith says of her Oscar nomination, entering the room in a gown. "They must have seen the dress," Caine concludes. This is probably the most fully fleshed-out story, with the truth behind their marriage emerging as Smith descends into drunkenness later on. That and the Matthau-May vignettes are the best, with the Alda-Fonda scene coming off as somewhat dated today. The weakest is the Pryor-Crosby.

Entertaining - if you don't feel like watching the whole thing, just watch the Caine-Smith and Matthau-May.

Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor try their best as doctor friends who are having an awful time on their vacation with their wives. It's just not that funny, despite them both being extremely likable.

Alan Alda and Jane Fonda do well in their dramatic story of separated couple meeting after nine years to discuss their child. Their segment is too short to really have an impact, might have worked well as a feature film. It's not all that involving.

Michael Caine and Maggie Smith are both excellent in their little segment, with Smith portraying an actress who's up for the academy award. Caine plays her show off gay husband. The two stars really shine in an otherwise average story, not all that interesting.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Brits Take California

Author: dglink from Alexandria, VA
6 May 2007

Despite a talented all-star cast, "California Suite," which was based on a hit Neil Simon play, is a wildly uneven film. The episodic story traces several unrelated couples from across the U.S. that check into a Beverly Hills hotel. Like a comedic "Grand Hotel," the film cuts between the stories, although the editing makes no comments, ironic or otherwise, between the episodes. Actually, the often foolish, self-centered characters make "California Suite" more a "Ship of Fools" in the sunshine than a "Grand Hotel" under the palms. The original play was a follow-up to the more successful "Plaza Suite" and demonstrated Simon's shakier take on the West Coast than on the East. For the most part, the hotel guests speak and behave like the transplanted or visiting New Yorkers that they are.

Jane Fonda portrays the ultimate New York snob, and her bitchy banter with ex-husband Alan Alda only underscores her arrogance and intolerance of anything that exists west of the Hudson. Alda is a New Yorker's stereotype of a Californian with pastel sweaters and perpetual tan. While a few amusing lines pass between the terminally mismatched couple, Fonda and Alda's episode is more grating than funny. However, the New York couple display Noel-Coward wit in comparison to the wasted talents and misfires in the scenes that involve Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby as vacationing doctors. The premise of two couples that arrive to find a reservation for only one has promise. However, director Herbert Ross should have studied Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd before he devised the broad, unfunny physical stunts that will leave viewers grateful that both Pryor and Cosby survived the mess and moved on to better material.

However, the film does have some fine moments between comedic experts Walter Matthau and Elaine May. When Matthau arrives in LA a day early, his brother surprises him with a prostitute, who passes out from too much tequila and cannot be awakened in the morning. Of course, Matthau's wife, the always-delicious Elaine May, arrives, and the comedy moves into high gear. The best episode in the film, however, involves an English actress, Maggie Smith, and her bisexual husband, Michael Caine. The couple arrives to attend the Academy Awards, because Smith is a Best Actress nominee. While Smith has some of the best-written lines in the film, her role also has a depth and poignancy that goes far beyond the cardboard characters in the other episodes. Although Caine is equally fine, Smith's role is showier, and she won a deserved Academy Award for the part. The film's special irony is that the part of an Oscar-losing-actress won an Oscar for the actress who played her.

"California Suite" is one of those films in which a few superior scenes make it worthy entertainment, and the Smith-Caine episode pulls the film several notches higher than it otherwise deserves. Add the sparkling Matthau-May scenes, and there is at least one-half of a good movie. Although the Fonda-Alda episode is bearable and occasionally amusing, the Pryor-Cosby scenes are often labored and unfunny. However, with a strong finger on the fast-forward button, there is a good hour of comedy and fine performances to be had in this inconsistent film.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

" For a smart woman, in a Man's world, I'm not doing too bad "

Author: thinker1691 from USA
12 August 2010

The great writing talent of Neil Simon, has little doubt achieved a stunning success. There are many shinning examples of his genius and this is one case in point. The film is called " California Suite " and has an impressive cast to make the movie work. Four couples from across the country arrive at this sunny resort for various reasons. First off are Mr. and Mrs Warren (Alan Alda and Jane Fonda) who arrive at the famous hotel to discuss their teen-age daughter and her decision to either return to New York or stay with her father in California. Although adult in their decision making, they nevertheless duel childishly with words over their different approaches. From across the Atlantic ocean arrive Mr. & Mrs Sidney Cochran (Michael Caine & Maggie Smith). He is there to give support to his wife, despite her misgivings about a nominated award. Walter Matthau stars as Marvin Michaels, from Philadelphia who's sex crazed brother (Harry Michaels) has set him up with a high priced hooker, prior to his wife's arrival. Finally there's Chauncey Gump (Richard Prior) and Willis Panama (Bill Cosby), two Dr.'s and their wives who arrive from Chicago and immediately start bickering over accommodations. Alda and Fonda are great as former married partners. Neil Simon gave them extremely good lines of dialog and it makes for a firm Tatate conversation. From Simon also came the rapid rapier exchange between Maggi Smith and Michael Caine. The playwright also created a superb character in Walter Mattau as he portrays a helpless husband, before his accusing wife. It is with laughter that Prior and Cosby are able to create such antics as to leave the hotel with a promise of revenge on their in-laws. As a result, the movie is as entertaining as a gifted playwright and superb actors can make it. A Classic result is the by-product for all audiences. ****

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