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   DIVORCE AMERICAN STYLE (1967) 

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CAST
Dick Van Dyke
Debbie Reynolds
Jason Robards
Jean Simmons
Van Johnson
Joe Flynn
Martin Gabel
Lee Grant
Tom Bosley
Shelley Berman
Tim Matheson
Emmaline Henry
Eileen Brennan
Gary Goetzman

DIRECTED BY
Bud Yorkin

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 109 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Comedy/Romance

Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.


SYNOPSIS: After 17 years, married life has become predictable and stale for Richard and Barbara Harmon. Tired of arguing and feeling worthless, they find themselves in divorce court and back on the dating scene. After a year of being apart, they discover they were happier with their old lives – married to each other – than they are with their new romances.

BOTTOM LINE: With divorce on the rise and becoming more acceptable in the 60s, the subject became fair game for filmmakers many of whom tried to milk it for comedy. The dissolution of a marriage and the subsequent break-up of a family is hardly something most people would joke about and thus you have this film's major problem. While both Van Dyke and Reynolds are inherently likable actors, it's not very enjoyable watching them scream and bicker at one another. Sure, all married people can probably relate to some of the troubles in their relationship, but that doesn't make it entertaining. It would be different if this was a serious take on the topic. There are some amusing moments as they try to acclimate to being single after so long, but while the overall tone of the film is light and breezy, the situations are not.

Van Dyke is the perfect actor for this role of the frustrated husband, who still loves his wife but can't understand why she's so darn unhappy. His comic touch lightens some tough situations and keeps you from choosing sides. Reynolds has the harder role, since she's the one who keeps pushing his buttons and is unhappy with how success has changed her man. Because we meet them when they're on the brink, her complaints are hard to justify since we have nothing to compare him to. Of course, in the end it comes down to the different expectations men and women have for marriage. He feels that if he provides for his family, he's doing his job and expects to be rewarded. While she appreciates a roof over her head, she's looking for an emotional connection, to be cherished and understood. A very tall order, if you ask me. They turn to divorce because they reach an impasse, but it's not something either of them really wants.

Neither understands the dating scene and even though they each find new partners – due to the machinations of another divorced couple played by Robards and Simmons – neither are truly comfortable with the thought of marrying again. Despite all the fighting Van Dyke and Reynolds have great chemistry, so it's only a matter of cinematic time before they're together again and right back where they started. It's supposed to be a happy ending, but it doesn't really play out that way. More like it's better to be unhappy and annoyed with the person you know and love deep down. They make it seem real and I guess they deserve kudos for that, but I was far less amused than I'd hoped to be. The first rate cast makes this a better film than it should be, but if you're looking for hiljinks and hilarity, look elsewhere.




"You wouldn't know a man if you fell under one."

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