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  Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon Three Against The World
Year: 1970
Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Liza Minnelli, Ken Howard, Robert Moore, James Coco, Kay Thompson, Fred Williamson, Ben Piazza, Emily Yancy, Leonard Frey, Clarice Taylor, Wayne Tippit, James Beard, Julie Bovasso, Nancy Marchand, Angelique Pettyjohn, Anne Revere, Pete Seeger
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Junie Moon (Liza Minnelli) is in hospital, recovering from an attack that left her arm and face burned. She is all bandaged up, but this morning when the doctors and medical students arrive to inspect the patients, they decide it is time to remove them, and so it is she sees what has happened to her in the mirror for the first time, and it shocks her - she feels awful. However, she will be released from the hospital soon, and is determined to have somewhere to go, therefore decides to see if she can find some housemates from among the other patients to stay in a rented property with her. She settles on the paraplegic Warren (Robert Moore) and the epileptic Arthur (Ken Howard), and personal independence is their goal...

By the point he was directing Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, Otto Preminger had long left his previous classics behind and was mired in a series of misjudged movies that were critical disasters, and not doing exactly great with audiences either. He seemed to be obsessed with the idea of staying relevant, especially with the younger generation who had grown in cultural prominence since the days he had started his career, and that led to embarrassing disasters such as Skidoo, but it also led to this, a decidedly glutinous lump of schmaltz where he proclaimed solidarity with the supposed misfits of the world, characters who would not usually be featured in Hollywood efforts.

For some, his endeavours were genuinely touching, but for most they were pretty hopeless, depicting the central trio with pity but not much understanding: they remained victims from start to finish, no matter that Marjorie Kellogg's screenplay (faithfully adapted from her own book) sought to offer them little triumphs among their miseries. We were meant to be feeling encouraging that, say, Junie was able to go to the beach and enjoy herself, yet every time she lightened up, the plot would give her a reason to be down again. And then there was the flashback where she received her scars, a hate-filled date who beat her up and poured battery acid in her face, which is such an unpleasant scene that the rest of the film struggled to recover from it.

Making us aware of how dreadful people could be was part and parcel of regarding the three housemates as holding a sort of "us against the world" mentality, and it was not just Junie who was placing herself as an outsider as Warren is a homosexual and Arthur is emotionally stunted to the extent that he may as well be a little boy for all his aptitude with dealing with adult life. Warren especially was a patronising conception of a gay man, a bitchy queen who at least gives as good as he gets, but then in a terrible misstep doesn't find any love with another man, though Fred Williamson's beach bum hotel worker looks like a candidate, but is seduced on that beach by a woman, as if to tell us that's what his type really need, and Warren was effectively mistaken when he believed he was gay. This film was full of missteps like that, trying to be sympathetic yet missing the point by miles.

It was no secret that nobody had a good time making this, Preminger by this time had been a tyrant on set for too long to change now, and Minnelli was going through the bereavement of losing her mother Judy Garland at the time, compounding how terrible she felt: she didn't need Otto yelling at her, nor did anyone. That this was a sensitive, intimate tale told by a man whose preferred mode of communication was bellowing is apparent in each overemphasised scene, be that the sentimentality, the humour or the message-making, and there was a definite tone to the film that made the process of watching it nothing short of queasy. Not only that, but it unhelpfully informed us the disabled and disadvantaged gained self-respect by cheating the system. There were certainly no laughs (some described it as a comedy, but that was difficult to believe) and the eventual romance would play a lot better if it had been allowed to result in some form of contentment rather than the tragedy we got. It has a car crash fascination up to a point, but you'd have to be very forgiving to take it on the level intended. Music by Philip Springer (with Pete Seeger wandering through a forest while singing and strumming under the titles).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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