During a high profile Mafia testimony case in California's Riverside County, a hired killer checks-in a hotel room near the courthouse while his next door depressed neighbor wants to commit suicide due to marital problems.
Naive, by the book French police officer Nester Patou, is transferred to the Red Light district. Upon witnessing what must be a brothel, he calls the station and organizes a raid, transporting all the 'ladies' to the jail. This unfortunately disrupts the well organized system of the police and the Pimps union. Not to mention inadvertently netting his station superior at the brothel. Fired, he goes to a bar to drink, is befriended by Irma, beats up her pimp, and finds he is now Irma's new pimp. Nester's doesn't like the thought of his girl seeing other men, so comes up with a plan.Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
One of Wilder's most divisive film's amongst his fans.
Adapted from Alexandre Breffort's stage musical, Irma la Douce in film form turns into something of a roller-coaster ride. Even allowing for the absence of the songs (a major gripe with purists), the film is far too bloated to really achieve the heights of being a great comedy classic. If it had been condensed to perhaps a 100 minute film then I think it could have achieved the splendour that some sequences hint at. As it is though, there is still much to enjoy, and nobody should be under the impression that this film isn't funny, because it is, but just how long can you stretch the joke Mr Wilder?
I think the chief thing that sticks out is just how did Wilder get such an overtly sexual farce past the censors? He pushes the boundary more than usual with this one, and I honestly would be surprised if he himself wasn't surprised to get away with so much cheeky sexual shenanigans. The sets are fabulous from Alexandre Trauner, and Andre Previn's score is perfect and in tune with the Parisian heart of the film, but the lead actors here are oddly not firing on all cylinders.
Jack Lemmon's hopeless romantic Nestor is the core humour character. A character who becomes jealous of himself! His transformation into an English fop is hilarious at first, but on, and on, and on it goes till the joke becomes a heavy weight on the film's shoulders. Lemmon is fine, he's just the victim of over ambition from Wilder. Shirley MacLaine is the title character and it doesn't quite come off, sure she gives it gusto and she looks fabulous (as always), but the role cried out for a more cosmopolitan actress, and this again comes down to Wilder losing site of things with this particular project.
It's a safe recommend for Lemmon fans, but for Wilder worshippers such as me the problems are evident in spite the film being his highest grossing film of the decade. A cautionary 7/10.
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