Felix's (Jack Lemmon) wife has left him and he is contemplating suicide. His friends sense his depression and one of them, Oscar (Walter Matthau), volunteers to take him in until he is fine again. The two of them are like chalk and cheese - Oscar is fun-loving, gregarious and slovenly, Felix is a shy, stay-at-home, obsessive-compulsive neat-freak. Being around Oscar brightens Felix up, but he quickly starts to irritate Oscar.Written by
No need to recap the plot. What a triumph of scripting and casting. The premise, viz. the neat freak and the slob, has got to be one of the most durable on record, accounting for both this movie and the long-running TV series. In fact, I count that early 20-minutes around the card table as one of the funniest and best-written episodes I've seen anywhere. If this isn't playwright Simon's best work, I don't know what is.
And what a fine example of ensemble acting are the poker-playing buddies, even if they never seem to play. Then too, get a load of the giddy Pigeon sisters. I love it when killjoy Felix gets them out of a romantic mood with a good cry. No wonder I-need-to-touch-something-soft Oscar wants to throttle him. And I'm still wondering whether Simon came up with the name "Felix Unger" because of the loaded initials or just happened to notice them. Anyway, the initials provide a good laugh.
Of course, filming a stage play is always tricky since there're minimal scene changes. Here there're basically only two sets. But I hardly notice because director Saks manages to keep somebody moving all the time. That, plus the quality of writing and acting, keeps attention from wandering. One thing I did notice. Catch how the poker players are bunched on one side of the table so that the camera can have an unobstructed angle. It's artificial but understandable.
Anyway, this is one of my favorite comedies, and I catch re-runs of the TV series when I can. Thanks Neil Simon for a truly inspired comedic set-up.
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