8 August 2010 | maryszd
Self-Consciously Offbeat Period Piece
Petulia opens with a shot of a middle-aged woman in a wheelchair, then cuts to a sixties' rock club featuring a very young-looking Janis Joplin. The sixties counterculture definitely torpedoed middle-aged women. Their husbands, like Archie, the middle-aged doctor played by George G. Scott, have the luxury of deciding they're "tired" of being married and jumping into affairs with younger women. This is a cause of continuing sadness to his ex-wife Polo, wonderfully played by Shirley Knight. Archie becomes involved with Petulia (Julie Christie), a clichéd "kooky" young woman of a type that often appeared in films of this period. Petulia is married to an abusive, wealthy husband, David, played with suitable evil by Richard Chamerlain. Christie is such a good actress that she gives some dimension to the role, although she's far outshone by Knight as Polo, the wounded wife. In its technique and attitude it really is a European or British film shot in San Francisco with American actors. There are interesting cultural references to the sixties, that may have seemed daring at the time, but now seem more innocent than anything else. The film is really about Archie and men of his generation and their bewilderment at the changing cultural mores represented by Petulia. On one hand they're delighted to feel that they can have sex with no responsibilities, but Petulia, for all her charm brings nothing but chaos into Archie's life. Was it really worth for him to be involved with her? And he ends up stuck with a high maintenance greenhouse in his apartment.