1 May 1999 | gurghi-2
Neither With Nor At
Who are these "They"- the actors? the filmmakers? Certainly couldn't be the audience- this is among the most air-puffed productions in existence. It's the kind of movie that looks like it was a lot of fun to shoot TOO much fun, nobody is getting any actual work done, and that almost always makes for a movie that's no fun to watch.
Ritter dons glasses so as to hammer home his character's status as a sort of doppleganger of the bespectacled Bogdanovich; the scenes with the breezy Ms. Stratten are sweet, but have an embarrassing, look-guys-I'm-dating-the-prom-queen feel to them. Ben Gazzara sports his usual cat's-got-canary grin in a futile attempt to elevate the meager plot, which requires him to pursue Audrey Hepburn with all the interest of a narcoleptic at an insomnia clinic. In the meantime, the budding couple's respective children (nepotism alert: Bogdanovich's daughters) spew cute and pick up some fairly disturbing pointers on 'love' while observing their parents. (Ms. Hepburn, drawing on her dignity, manages to rise above the proceedings- but she has the monumental challenge of playing herself, ostensibly.) Everybody looks great, but so what? It's a movie and we can expect that much, if that's what you're looking for you'd be better off picking up a copy of Vogue.
Oh- and it has to be mentioned that Colleen Camp thoroughly annoys, even apart from her singing, which, while competent, is wholly unconvincing... the country and western numbers are woefully mismatched with the standards on the soundtrack. Surely this is NOT what Gershwin (who wrote the song from which the movie's title is derived) had in mind; his stage musicals of the 20's may have been slight, but at least they were long on charm. "They All Laughed" tries to coast on its good intentions, but nobody- least of all Peter Bogdanovich - has the good sense to put on the brakes.
Due in no small part to the tragic death of Dorothy Stratten, this movie has a special place in the heart of Mr. Bogdanovich- he even bought it back from its producers, then distributed it on his own and went bankrupt when it didn't prove popular. His rise and fall is among the more sympathetic and tragic of Hollywood stories, so there's no joy in criticizing the film... there _is_ real emotional investment in Ms. Stratten's scenes. But "Laughed" is a faint echo of "The Last Picture Show", "Paper Moon" or "What's Up, Doc"- following "Daisy Miller" and "At Long Last Love", it was a thundering confirmation of the phase from which P.B. has never emerged.
All in all, though, the movie is harmless, only a waste of rental. I want to watch people having a good time, I'll go to the park on a sunny day. For filmic expressions of joy and love, I'll stick to Ernest Lubitsch and Jaques Demy...