Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) Poster

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Brilliant timepiece well worth re-visiting
Raph77031 October 2010
I watched this film again having first seen it on late night TV in the mid 1980s when I was twenty. I thought it would be unintentionally funny, expecting it to have dated badly. How wrong I was! This film is an important timepiece, a fascinating insight in to hip west coast middle class life at a time when America was still on top of the world, yet to realize it would all be downhill from there. The film has stood up remarkably well, it's subject matter still poignant. The cultural and social concepts of fidelity are forever shifting, often turning full circle making films like B&C&T&A relevant and thought provoking some forty years after release. The film is beautifully directed by Mazursky, and is arguably the finest work ever done by all four leads in the film. I found it fascinating observing each performance closely – noting how the actors juggled their obvious affection for their character, while at the same time being true to Mazursky's raison d'être – a gentle dig at the new social mores of the wealthy west coast hip set. Delicately picking at the counter-culture as if choosing hors d'oeuvres from a waiter at a cocktail party, Bob and Carol experiment with dope, extra marital sex and new age group therapy. The dialogue sparkles, the actors so in tune with Mazursky's vision they breathe life in to what are essentially caricatures. At times the film is laugh out loud funny, though not unintentionally as I had expected. I was surprised to realize the film was released in 1969, thinking it was more an early 70s creation, so ahead of its' time does it seem even today. It was years before other artists dared tackle the difficult subject of middle class vacuity, and rarely with the eloquence and humour of this film. The film is also sumptuous to look at, Bob and Carol's elegant faux Spanish villa positively luxurious even by today's standards. The scene of the foursome cruising to Las Vegas in Ted's convertible Cadillac is an elegiac vision, a scene of America that no longer exists. A time when wealthy Americans still bought Cadillacs, when Las Vegas was seen as a place of glamor and fun and despite the social unrest and Vietnam, America was still big, brash and confident. The greatest civilization in the history of the world, all there to see as the white ragtop barrels down the highway, the foursome laughing and in high spirits – a scene that in some ways summed up the theme of the movie. With so much at their fingertips, the luckiest people to have ever lived, but they don't know what to do with the privilege. They are lost, their search for sexual and emotional fulfillment nothing more than a desperate search for meaning, a sad attempt to fill a nagging void. In the mid 1980s, former Eagle front man Don Henley had his last big hit with 'The Boys Of Summer', in which he sings of his dismay at seeing a new Cadillac pass him on the LA freeway, a Dead-head sticker on the bumper. The former hippies, the baby boomers, had sold out. Mazursky was telling us the same thing fifteen years earlier. Perhaps Pete Townsend of the Who summed it up best in his anthemic Won't Get Fooled Again – 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss' A highly thought-provoking experience seeing this film again, and for those interested in culture, counter or otherwise – this is a must.
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MicheBel24 August 1999
I love this movie. Although some people may classify it as "dated," the concepts that it deals with are worth exploring today. How honest are we to one another? How often do we actually look at people? And what is love?

From its opening shots (tooling up PCH in a cool car) to its closing ones (people really looking at each other), it's a true work of art. The beginning truly captures the free and concept-expanding atmosphere that is the Esalen Institute, which itself has not changed much since then. Screen goddess Natalie Wood, in one of her best roles, inhabits the honesty and sexual freedom that is Carol. Robert Culp is a strong counterpart to her as Bob. The more repressed couple, Eliott Gould and Dyan Cannon, are perfect.

Along the way, they explore the boundaries of sexuality, monogamy and friendship, and realize that some lines are better left uncrossed. To me, it puts a very fine point on what was going on in the 60s, and where exactly we went wrong.

SEE THIS FILM. It'll give you insight. Promise.
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This movie holds up!
nlevin1130 April 2005
I rented this movie because I remembered one scene from 35 years ago. I was astounded to see that the whole movie holds up very well. The 4 leads are terrific (Natalie Wood and Dyan Canon are beautiful, by the way, and Robert Culp hits just the right note with his "sensitive-new- age-guy" hip/naive performance) and you can see director Paul Mazursky's touch with what seems to be stretches of impromptu dialog I found true.

The movie also does a great job of balancing drama with farce, superficiality with intimacy.

The scenes at the Esalen-type retreat start at as spoof but evolve into real empathy. Parenthetically, check out the fashions in this film. There is one scene in a discotheque that Mazursky must have known even then would be a source of laughter and certainly, today, it's a hoot.
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Still worth watching.
brefane28 November 2004
B&C&T&A is still entertaining and has a number of funny scenes. Two of my favorites are the opening scene at the Esalen Institute, and Alice's session with her psychiatrist. The cast,particularly Dyan Cannon (Best Supporting Actress- NY Film Critics)and Elliot Gould, is perfect. B&C&T&A really do seem like couples and friends. It's Natalie Wood's best adult film role, and arguably her best film performance:she's never been more natural or at ease in front of the camera. Robert Culp never had a better role or vehicle. The film marked Mazursky's directorial debut, and it's probably his best film. The final scene in front of the Riviera Hotel in Vegas, recalls the "looking" exercise at the Institute, and was influenced by the parade at end of Felini's "81/2". Therefore, I give the film an 81/2 out of 10. Rent(or buy) the DVD and listen to the commentary with Cannon,Culp,Gould and Mazursky. Did you know that Leif Garrett plays Bob and Carol's son, and that Culp's "I Spy" costar, Bill Cosby, appears briefly(don't blink) in a scene at a club? The film has aged better than Midnight Cowboy, Z, Butch Cassidy, Hello Dolly and Anne of the Thousand Days,the films nominated for Best Picture of 1969. B&C&T&A feels more representative of the 60's than The Graduate, and is definitely worth seeing.
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Clever & Cool & Classy & Funny
middleburg13 August 2004
What a delightful movie! I don't think its aged one bit. Sure the clothes are different, the latest self-help fads are different, the priorities are different--but SO much still resonates today. The relationship between love and sex and spouses and friends. Human desire, and commitment are timeless topics, and they are explored with great wit and panache in this thoroughly entertaining movie. And the dialogue! Many scenes purely consist of the twists and turns of intelligent people in verbal games--some of the scenes feel like being in a verbal

amusement park, going up and down roller-coasters of clever and surprising

dialogue. The funny moments are priceless: the tennis instructor asking for a glass of Pernod, Dyan Cannon in the therepist's office--probably the funniest and most perceptive take on the "therepy experience" ever shown on film-- (along with Kirstie Alley's therapist melt-down scene in Woody Allen's

"Deconstructing Harry"), the opening group therapy session in the beautiful

California countryside, that first dinner in the restaurant with Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice all declaring their love for each other in front of the table of bemused gay diners--it is a film filled with endless, perceptive and highly

amusing details. Its a terrific entertainment. (One last comment--Dyan Cannon lights up the screen everytime she appears, with her sexy persona, her high

spirits, her warmth and generosity, and that truly infectious laugh!)
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"I like my husband." "Yes, but do you love him?"
wombat_115 May 2003
I saw this movie as a repressed teenager when it first came out, so much of the humour I didn't understand. But even now, 30 years later, there are some specific scenes that I recall as superbly funny. And from my every dimming memory, the best parts are indeed when Carol is being "played" (like a fish!) by her psychiatrist.
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Great 60's comedy w/beautiful actresses
shepardjessica24 June 2004
One of the best of 1969 with Natalie Wood and Dyan Cannon at their sexiest. Perfect casting, great story, and Mazursky's best film. I know the critics were split on this one, but it came out at the right time and it holds up today. What's not to like about this? Elliott Gould was never more befuddled, Dyan Cannon's best acting when she was gorgeous, Robert Culp's only decent movie, and Natalie Wood was born to play Carol.

Certainly a 9 out 10! Mazursky would never again be so in touch with the times and the ending is NOT a cop-out! Check this out. Great stuff! Even the encounter session scenes have the ring of truth for that sort of thing. This movie is great!
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Not particularly funny....but interesting
mikeghee22 January 2004
I found this film at a video store and immediately rented it out of curiosity. It stars Robert Culp, Natalie Wood, Elliot Gould, and Dyan Cannon as the namesakes respectively. I remember when I was a kid this film came out in 1969 so I really did not know anything about it other than it was supposed to be some kind of "sex comedy".

Well being an adult now and renting it, I found that it basically deals with 2 married couples, the ages of which suggest upper 30's to me. They decide to experimentally partake of the late 60's climate of free love, drugs, etc. I think that is where the film is supposed to derive its humor from.

Instead, the film plays like prolonged unfunny sketches on "Saturday Night Live" which they save for the end of the broadcast. However, I was compelled to keep watching the film to see what would be the result of their "experiment" The film did have some funny moments such as Elliot Gould fantasizing about a marital affair and Dyan Cannon at the shrink.

I give the film credit since I could not figure out what the ending would be like and was somewhat surprised by it when it happened. There is a second part of the ending right before the credits roll which still has me confused though. Overall, an OK film in my opinion.

Side Note: Natalie Wood and Dyan Cannon look pretty hot in this movie so if your a male like myself and always found these woman attractive, its a must rental !
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Still Brilliant 36 years later
SajeevaS26 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Bob is married to Carol. Carol's best friends with Alice whose husband Ted is best friends with Bob. Things begin to heat up (in a good way), when Bob has an affair with a woman, and Carol becomes OK with it, and hence the 2 of them openly accept that having having sex with another person is OK, as there are no emotions involved.

For a movie made in 1969, this movie is brilliant. People tend to skip these lost gems, because they consider it to be rather 'ancient' - however it is so good, that if the same script and direction were used without any amendments, but with a different cast offcourse today, this movie would stll be a hit, and would even score at the Oscars. The performances are BRILLIANT, and are still Oscar worthy. Dyan Cannon was the most impressive - I certainly do not know how the 60's revolved, but at that time you would expect for a blonde actress, to play a quirky role. Dyan was everything BUT quirky. Natalie Wood, who i believe had a vivid resemblance to Catherine Zeta Jones, gave a good performance as well. What made their performance so good was that is seemed so real.

A must see for everyone. Take my word - WATCH IT!
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Marital bliss has never been so funny
soranno2 November 2002
Two married couples (Bob: Robert Culp, Carol: Natalie Wood, Ted: Elliott Gould, Alice: Dyan Cannon) feel as though true excitement is missing from their marriages and so they decide to pick things up by wife swapping and having drug parties. A crazy but funny satire on marriages that is given a boost by the hilarious performances of its talented cast.
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Psychological partner-swapping that drags on with no payoff
ES-III29 December 1999
Even though Natalie Wood stars in this film, it's not very good. It chronicles the healthy descent of four friends who fall into a cavalcade of swinging and partner-swapping to help their marriage after attending a secluded psychotherapy course. As everyone rejuvenates their sexual thinking and behavior, other problems rear their ugly heads, and the four realize only love is needed to revitalize a marriage.

It's pretty gutsy material for the time, and I'm fairly sure you wouldn't see a film this brave come from a major studio with big-name stars today. Still, it's just not very good! I didn't care for any of the characters, especially Robert Culp's portrayal of Bob Sanders and Dyan Cannon's whiny rendering of Alice Henderson, and the story just dragged on and on without any closure or action. I'd wait for this one to come on late at night when there's absolutely nothing else on!
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Great Movie!!!!!!
WhoAteMyKielbasa26 February 2004
I (admittedly) started watching this movie, because it had nudity, and there was nothing else on. But after really getting into it, I got...well...into it! It's such a great comedy, and not just because it's so dated,(and it is)but because of the actors they chose. Gould is amazing in this movie! I was unaware of his true genius until this movie! Also cannon is phenomenal! Not to mention wood and culp, I honestly could not have asked for a better movie to happen across! The story is great, bob and carol go to a hippie retreat, and get "changed" in their mindset of sexual relationships. Then when they come home, they bring the ideals home and spew them on their best friends, ted and alice, like radiation. Of course it messes them up bad, and disrupts their lives. This is where the fun gets started. If you do watch, be warned, the beginning is weird. But give it 20 minutes, you'll be happy you did! I LOVED the movie, I'm just upset it took so long to discover it. Seriously, we should all be so lucky! I give it very high marks, and suggest you watch it an enjoy it. GREAT MOVIE!!!!!!
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When the person we spend the most of our life with is perhaps the one we talk the least to...
ElMaruecan824 May 2019
"Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" is a fabulous movie, a double-faced mirror projecting our own frustrations while allowing us to project our personal insecurities... it pretends to make fun of a certain "hip" attitude toward sex and couple but underneath the little comedic quips, it reveals the stuff we hide because it's the right thing to do though we feel it's not. It doesn't cheat with reality but through humor and an edgy je-ne-sais-quoi, it reveals the ultimate paradox of marriage: the person we spend the most of our life with is perhaps the one we talk the least to.

I guess it takes a married man to spot these nuances; when I first saw the film, I couldn't finish it because the DVD stopped working. I was 28, I laughed a lot but I don't think I could respond to it as strongly as I did today, after seven marital years. Paul Mazurksy's film didn't teach me any lesson about marriage because I've learned enough (though not enough to avoid divorce), but the film caught me off guard because I was stuck in a secrecy-phase: keeping my feelings for myself and stop opening up as easily as I used to. And the film opens with a memorable 24-hour to some seminary camp where people learn to deal with the expression of their feelings.

I wish I could be in that camp. Hell, I wish the DVD had worked ten years ago.

The opening sequence alone is an indication that the film isn't venturing in the usual territories, it's close in topic with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" but you couldn't have more opposite treatments: from the first scenes, the film dares you to challenge every rule of modesty and intimacy, showing people indulging to acts of collective hugging, crying and kissing. It looks like orgies' preliminaries but these are the climaxes to more emotional outings of anger, frustrations, coming directly from the heart. While movies allowed us to penetrate the intimacy of characters with the power of the camera, this time, we deal with characters who are much aware that their intimacy is being occupied and don't mind about it, that's what Bob (Robert Culp) and Carol (Natalie Wood) learn during their journey.

So their behavior is an invitation for spontaneity, honesty, acceptance and on the field of cinematic storytelling a novelty and a great canvas for unpredictable and funny situations. Indeed, "How do you feel?" "What are you thinking about?" aren't these the kind of awkward questions couples exchange when they feel someone is keeping a deep thought inside and they have to 'dig it'. So the film exposes us to two couples that are extremely similar, belonging to these yuppie intermediary categories of Americas (too old for the flower power but too young for conservatism) and see how the two 'digging' approaches work.

Bob and Carol operate a real "perestroika" and "glasnost" (restructuration and transparency) going as far as having affairs and telling about them, much to the disbelief of their friends Ted (Elliot Gould) and Carol (Dyan Cannon), much to the latter's disgust actually. Yet Ted and Carol, an easily aroused man and a borderline frigid woman, don't form an ideal couple either. We suspect their marriage is the sum of too many unspoken things, likely to shake their love edifice. Bob and Carol might be weird but within their insanity, they find a platform of sanity allowing their couple to last and it's interesting to see how their odd patterns of behavior end up spewing out on Ted and Carol's marriage.

Now, back to my situation. I said I wanted to keep my feelings to me, to protect myself, but deep inside, I knew I was playing a game. The film doesn't make me feel guilty about it because everybody does, and Carol while turned off by the seemingly decadence of these open relationships, as the only supposedly sane person of the quarter, confronts everyone to the predictable conclusion we all longed for as soon as we saw the film's poster. And Mazurky's script obviously agrees that truth never emerges from hiding, no matter what. Without spoiling the ending, I can say I loved the way it both managed to show the limits of the open-relationships (through a "let's try" scenario) without denying its cathartic effect. After all, what did Oscar Wilde say about the best way to resist temptation?

This is a film about people experimenting new approaches to life, testing their own limits, and thus taking the viewer to a fantastic journey into his own psyche. Once my wife said she didn't feel attracted, I took it as an offense but the same day I was thinking maybe she's respecting me enough to tell me the truth, or maybe she had enough esteem to know I woudn't take it defensively. The film also reminded me the way I used to fantasize about my best friend's girlfriend because she had more voluptuous curves, the question is "why should I feel guilty?. "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" deals with guilt in a different way than a Scorsese movie but it feels incredibly real and still relevant, it's outspoken, amused, confused, expressed though a palette of reactions from Gould's bewildered infantile eyes or Cannon's incomparable talent to have that disgusted face on her look (both would be nominated for Best Supporting roles).

Now, the film is 50 years old, and open relationship are as banal as veggie sandwiches or uber taxis and Mazurksy should be commanded to have formed that perfect cast (Wood is just too irresistible for words) and made a movie that predicted a relevant evolution to society. All Youtubers and personal development gurus exercise the same influences in our lives, inviting us to stop copping-out and speak the truth, nothing but the truth, as any of the quartet would say "Insight!".

"Insights!". Yes, the film is full of them.
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That's gorgeous, man. The truth is always beautiful.
Sylviastel16 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This film was quite revolutionary for the time period of 1969 about sexuality, marriage and fidelity. Two Los Angeles professional couples are Bob (Robert Culp) and Carol (Natalie Wood in a surprising role) and Ted (Elliott Gould) and Dyan Cannon (Alice) who spend the entire movie discussing sexuality and monogamy. The two couples are both attractive and successful and best friends with each other as well. The build-up scene for the foursome is quite developed and realistic. Both husbands have flings or one night stands while Alice is still a holdout for being faithful. The film begins with Bob and Carol at a new age institute common for the era. The film showed Los Angeles in the sixties as an up and coming city. They lead comfortable, successful lives but something seems missing . The surprise performance was Natalie Wood in her role.
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review of Bob&Carol&Ted&Alice
aeleeman3 July 2005
keeping in mind how long this movie has survived and to find that its continuing popularity seemingly intact. it was (and remains) a brisk paced "fun, and funny" movie that still holds up in this somewhat jaded time we now live in - most viewers today would not have a clue how racy this movie was thought to be at its first showing way back in 1969. I can still remember my wife and I discussing the movie for weeks after first viewing it - with a little bit of embarrassment but over-all just plain laughter!! In fact, sometimes at parties we would "do some of the lines" which were hysterical and generally referred to by our friends as raunchy. thinking back it really fun to elicit the red faces from our friends - still makes me chuckle even after all these years - thanks for the opportunity of sharing this information with those who haven't seen it - its worth much more than the price of admission.
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A delightful look back at the daft optimism of a memorable era
greystones1189 February 2004
The pay-off, it seems to me, is in the fact that at the moment when the enthusiastic couple and the reluctant couple submit to the full and unfettered concept of free love, they finally realize the truth that no matter how much love and social freedom they feel towards their dearest friends, there are still some areas of human experience that are best kept private and intimate.

So, rather charmingly, they decide that however hip they seem and wish to appear, deep down they are as old fashioned as you and me !

Malcolm McDougall - ( child of the sixties )
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Tongue-in-cheek send-up of the 1960s, with a melancholy undermining
moonspinner5522 May 2001
Writer-director Paul Mazursky must be a manic-depressive. He enjoys setting up farcical situations and then underlining the laughs with either seriousness or a sense of melancholy. When Bob (Robert Culp) returns home to find wife Carol (Natalie Wood) entertaining a gentleman in their bedroom, he's outraged--forgetting that he himself just disclosed having an affair not too long back. His juvenile outburst is hilarious, but when the two men meet and share a drink, it's Mazursky who brings the viewer back to Earth with a bit of poignancy. I like this combination, although it's likely to throw some viewers off track. There's a lot going in this film: improvisation, long takes, a surrealistic ending. But I thought it really worked, and Dyan Cannon is just amazing as square friend Alice who can't escape her sexually-repressed background. Natalie Wood is less interesting: she's at her most beautiful here, but there's a plastic quality about her work that she can't seem to shake (perhaps she was still stuck in star-vehicle mode, being overtly impish, and this clashes with the more subtle work of her co-stars). In spite of the flaws, a near-gem. *** from ****
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very nice
Michael Bennett Cohn12 September 1999
Touching and sad, this "comedy" is (intentionally, I think) more depressing than funny. It's one of those films that manages to make a serious statement about human nature purely by presenting believable (although zany) characters and behavior, never getting preachy. It manages to come across with a sort of anti-promiscuity message, while tittilating the (male) viewer with lots of footage of natalie wood prancing around in her underwear. And I have no problem with that.
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Was Interesting
Dave CT23 August 1999
I watched this movie one night during the summer of 1999. I found it really interesting and sometimes true to life, concerning the psyche of the male and female mind. I recommend watching this movie, it quite entertaining I feel.
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Classic from Paul Mazursky
barbarella704 December 2002
Underrated director Paul Mazursky's satiric hit film deals with two couples facing the let-it-all-hang-out, '60's counterculture attitude. The title seems part of today's culture but not the film itself; that being the case, it's too bad because there's buried treasure here. Dyan Cannon creates some magic with her bitchy, uptight Alice: memorable, seemingly improvised therapy scenes where the character's awkward communication skills are highlighted ring very true-as does her frustration near the end when she tries to initiate the orgy. A bedroom scene between Alice and Ted (Elliot Gould) is played with pitch-perfect comedic timing and showcases both actor's ability to balance seriousness and lunacy. Ms. Cannon won the NY Film Critics Best Supporting Actress Award and both she and Mr. Gould were nominated for Academy Awards; a feat almost unheard of for work done in a comedy.

Robert Culp's Bob and Natalie Wood's Carol balance quite nicely; Mr. Culp is square-jawed sexy with a slight deadpan delivery while Miss Wood was at the height of her looks and popularity. Displaying a knock-out figure and wide bedroom eyes, she's obviously game for the comedy as well as the sexual undercurrent. Their deluded characters set the ball rolling and score in their own setpieces: the bedroom confession that's played out on the bathroom floor, the discovery of Carol's mid-afternoon romp with a stammering tennis pro. When all four lead unite in the Las Vegas hotel room, a sequence begins that exudes hilarity, sexuality, uncomfortability, and ultimately, a bittersweet melancolia topped by a Fellini-esque finale. It's a great movie.
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Still Sharp Comedy Resonates as a Provocative Time Capsule of the Sexual Revolution
EUyeshima28 November 2009
It's tempting to call this archetypical 1969 comedy severely dated, but that would be too superficial a judgment. Taken as a period piece when the sexual revolution was completely redefining the country's moral code, the film is a shrewdly observed, sharply comic character study among the Southern California bourgeoisie. It also marks the auspicious directorial debut of Paul Mazursky, a former actor who ended up making two decades' worth of insightful films focused on personal foibles and sympathetic satire ("An Unmarried Woman", "Down and Out in Beverly Hills"). He cleverly uses the "Hallelujah" chorus of Handel's "Messiah" to open the film as documentary filmmaker Bob Sanders and his wife Carol drive through the canyons outside LA to an Esalen-like couples' retreat where narcissism runs rampant with participants encouraged to express how they "feel" through group hugs, crying, mutual staring, even pillow punching.

The experience transforms Bob and Carol into a touchy-feely couple so intent on being completely honest with each other that they accept each other's acts of adultery. This level of supposed enlightenment initially appalls their best friends, Ted and Alice Henderson, who hold on tenuously to their more traditional values. However, a weekend in Vegas becomes a cathartic showdown among the two couples, and the outrageous brashness of their liberated behavior comes to a crescendo that manages to be unexpected and predictable at the same time. Mazursky ends things on a surreal note with Jackie DeShannon's classic rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love". Through it all, the four principal actors give sharp performances that wisely leave the motivations for their characters ambiguous enough for the audience to draw their own conclusions.

Coming off his hit TV series "I Spy", Robert Culp effectively plays Bob as a hippie-wannabe closing in on middle age and recognizing an innate need to give in to the new moral order to belong. As Carol, Natalie Wood at thirty never looked so sexy nor come across so relaxed on screen. She brings such an alluring knowingness to the role that it becomes difficult to believe why Bob would want to cheat on her in the first place. In his first major role, Elliott Gould keeps Ted as an amusing, sympathetic figure who keeps dancing between disgust and envy with increasing alacrity. Dyan Cannon comes closest to stealing the picture since she carries the biggest character arc as Alice. It is her character who does the abrupt about-face that spurs the climax (…you should pardon the expression). The 2004 DVD contains a sometimes entertaining, sometimes too self-conscious commentary track featuring Mazursky, Culp, Gould, and Cannon, as well as a twenty-minute interview with Mazursky from 2003.
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An anti-Sixties '60s film
krumski25 July 2001
Any film made during the "Swinging Sixties" is almost sure to look silly to us today - a plethora of "groovy man"s as well as doped-up pontifications about "letting it all hang out" and becoming one of the "beautiful people", all served up with garish camera tricks and gaudy production design. You know, "Austin Powers" but without the wink-wink knowingness.

(NOTE: To see how a so-called "classic" can be killed by the passage of time - and the absence of pharmaceuticals in one's system - check out "Easy Rider". That is, if you can stand it.)

On the surface, "B&C&T&A" seems to be in line with such films: it is, after all, how a quartet of middle class "squares" become indoctrinated into the hippie values of free love and "doing your own thing." However, the film uses that set-up as a means to deflate - gently and good naturedly - those very values. For, as the group becomes more uninhibited and "with it," the more goofy and ridiculous they all seem. This is particularly true of Robert Culp and Natalie Wood (Bob and Carol), as they take on the hippie philosophy full-bore and unquestionably. Casting here is impeccable: seeing the square-jawed, All-American looking Culp (then the epitome of middle-brow, as star of "I Spy") utter lines straight out of the Dennis Hopper - Peter Fonda playbook is just unutterably funny; he's got the words all right, but the music is woefully wrong. Same thing with Natalie Wood; can there be anyone more whitebread than her? The more she attempts to be "groovy" the more perfectly square she seems, particularly as Carol appears to just be parroting everything her husband says and does in adopting this new lifestyle. Quite the opposite of "liberation", wouldn't you say?

Perhaps funnier, though, are Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon as Ted and Alice, since they get to register all the (comic) shock and horror of their friends' complete abandonment of rationality. And the equally strong undercurrents of jealousy that their friends are getting to enjoy all the freedom and sexual gratification that they themselves, as good well-behaved members of society - are missing out on. Cannon's neurotic sessions with her psychiatrist - where she continually broaches, and then backs off of, what's really troubling her - provide wonderful moments of comic denial and delusion.

What the film ultimately exposes is the moral vacuity of much of the hippie philosophy - that happiness and feeling good about oneself are not all there is to life, and that focusing too narrowly on them leads ultimately to emptiness. It also makes the subtle point, however, that much of what might initially have been good about hippie thought (or at least, the thoughts of those who inspired the hippies in the first place) was oversimplified and thereby corrupted when the middle class tried to incorporate it, seizing only upon those elements of it which seemed "fun" or "a turn-on" to them. Let's face it: how much of the so-called Woodstock Nation really had any deep political or philosophical commitments; most were just middle class kids turned on to the immediate buzz of easy drugs, free sex, and rebellion for its own sake. Likewise, cosmetic changes such as longer hair or listening to rock'n'roll didn't necessarily change the minds or policies of many in the power structure. As John Lennon said in 1971: "The Sixties didn't change anything. The same b***ards are in power now, it's just they've all got long hair."

I don't mean to suggest that the film gets into issues like this directly; it is never less than a pleasant and even sunny comedy. But these issues in a very real way undergird the film and make it ahead of its time. Released in 1969, "Bob, Carol et al. . ." displays a jaundiced attitude about the counterculture - at least, the middle-class *embrace* of the counterculture - that wouldn't come widely into vogue until at least a decade later. Indeed, the film almost seems contemporary in its bemused and dismissive view of Sixties mores. Austin Powers fans would do well to check it out.
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The rich hippies of suburbia
bako10124 November 2002
This is a grainy, sun-drenched, hippy farce. An examination of whether married relationships can withstand/be improved by free love - it seems almost a parody of itself, showing how a bunch of rich LA types have jumped on the peace and love bandwagon and are riding it out of existence. Like all revolutions though, it had become (main)streamlined by movies like this, and as such was about to burn out. It's 1969 and the end of the line for the hippy ideal. So this movie accurately depicts where the movement had gotten to (but is this intentional?). The film itself is a dreamy, bizarre, occasionally amusing, often boring, sex farce.
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Okay, WHO said that it had a cop-out ending?
lee_eisenberg8 July 2005
With the sexual revolution of the '60s, there of course would have to be a movie about sex. "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" was it. Having visited a therapy group, Bob and Carol Sanders (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood) have become more open about their sexuality, and are identifying more with the counterculture in general. Their repressed friends, Ted and Alice Henderson (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon) can't seem to get into it. But while in a hotel room in Las Vegas, after they've all revealed some secrets, they decide to have an orgy. You've probably seen the picture of the four of them in bed together.

When this movie came out, many critics thought that it had a cop-out ending. In an interview, director Paul Mazursky explained that he felt that they only could go as far as they eventually went. Anyway, you can't judge an entire movie by one individual scene; it's what the movie's saying overall that matters. As for the characters, Bob seems sort of wooden, Carol is hot (as Natalie Wood always was), Ted is a dork, and Alice is a little eccentric. Overall, it's a pretty good movie.
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A Movie I Love to Hate
21561120 October 2003
Drawing many rave reviews and even Academy Award nods, this remains one of my personal choices for a truly horrible film. I have tried over and over to watch this thing, telling myself to turn more positive and all that stuff. It doesn't work. Usually the sheer whiny and lifeless dialog alone makes me stop the video tape long before I have seen more than a third of the scenes. Seen by many as a great 60's portrayal, it lacks even the excitement of that era. The thought of having an affair, sexual or otherwise, with any of these morbid and depressing characters is totally out of the question for me.

Inveterate hippies who still smoke a joint a day will continue to find this movie a joy, even when their days of prostate problems and wrinkles have arrived. As Ancient Greece was important to the eventual development of drama, this movie is important to the eventual development of the X rated disasters currently in production.
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