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  Such Good Friends Karma Coma
Year: 1971
Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Dyan Cannon, James Coco, Jennifer O'Neill, Ken Howard, Nina Foch, Laurence Luckinbill, Louise Lasser, Burgess Meredith, Sam Levene, William Redfield, James Beard, Rita Gam, Michael Giordano III, Oscar Grossman, Nancy Guild, Lawrence Tierney
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Julie Messinger (Dyan Cannon) is a wealthy New York housewife, married to magazine editor Richard (Laurence Luckinbill), with two boys and a life of leisure. This morning she is due to attend the launch of her husband's new book, a children's novel as he has a lucrative second career in that area, but perhaps her life is not as calm as she would like when she has to rush around like today, trying to get to the party on time. When she does get there, she lets her fantasy life intrude on her real life and sees respected author Bernard Kalman (Burgess Meredith) dancing completely naked except for his latest tome covering his modesty, but soon she will have more serious things on her mind...

Director Otto Preminger, as with many celebrated filmmakers when they reach the autumn years of their career, was beginning to flounder when he took on this adaptation of Lois Gould's novel; after Skidoo, you might wonder why he wanted to make another comedy, but this was far less self-conscious about appealing to the kids and far more interested in skewering the mores of the upper class New Yorkers. The script was contributed to by Elaine May, but her usual keen eye for character was not much in evidence in what even at the time must have come across as a specialised field of humour, and now might have well as hailed from another planet.

It would be safe to say that Such Good Friends has not aged well, if you could have said that it was actually any good when it was released. The trouble is that the original novel was apparently serious, whereas the film version is meant to be a comedy, or at least most of it is, so when Richard goes into hospital to remove a potentially harmful mole on his neck, there are complications that we are intended to find ridiculous in a satirical fashion. Preminger seems intent on trivialising these people's lives, which means when Richard goes into a coma on the operating table after a blood tranfusion goes wrong, the comedy bell is sounded.

But that bell has a tinny sound, and whatever you think about the lifestyles of the wealthy there's not much funny about the predicament Julie is landed in. To cover this up, she is surrounded by silly, self-obsessed personalities that verge on caricature, and some, such as James Coco's Doctor Spector, who are strictly lampooned. This is troublesome when it's his hands who Richard has his life resting in, and the gradual accumulation of the patient's health worries in the face of a supposedly silly level of ineptitude needed a far more savage edge if it wanted to be seen as a biting black comedy. What it is seen as is lightweight.

As if Julie's problems were not bad enough, they mount up when it is revealed that Richard had a string of affairs, all of which he recorded in a little black book that she finds amongst his things. Instead of sinking into depression, she decides to get her own back and commit adultery herself, but her attempt with photographer Cal (Ken Howard) fails when he has a spell of impotence. Yes, that really is as funny as it sounds, and all this doing down of the people in the story becomes very wearing, so that when we are asked to respond to any genuine emotion, as at the end when the inevitable happens, we are left wondering why we should bother when just five minutes ago they were figures of fun. I don't know if this would have been any better as a drama, but as it stands Such Good Friends is tiresome with a tedious lack of insight that scuppers much entertainment value. If you want to see Burgess Meredith naked, though, help yourself. Music by Thomas Z. Shepard.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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