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  Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? The Odder Couple
Year: 1983
Director: Henry Jaglom
Stars: Karen Black, Michael Emil, Michael Margotta, Martin Harvey Friedberg, Frances Fisher, Anna Raviv, Robert Hallak, Larry David, Carol Kane
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Zee (Karen Black) is not having a good morning, as she has seen her husband pack his bags and leave their apartment, no matter that she tried to unpack the bags and hide them behind her, kissing him passionately when he tried to take them back. So lonely she wanders the streets of New York, visiting the park and listening to the buskers, then going for something to eat at a nearby cafe, where she just so happens to be sitting at a table next to two office workers, Eli (Michael Emil) and Mort (Martin Harvey Friedberg) who have been discussing how to pick up eligible women...

Director Henry Jaglom's films seem to come off second best to the films of Woody Allen when they're considered, if they are considered at all, but that comparison was not quite accurate, as while superficially they may have been about mining humour from neurotic New Yorkers, Jaglom had a very specific approach to the actors which left the results seeming semi-improvised, a loose amalgamation of meandering scenes which would wander up to jokes without ever opting for something as obvious as a punchline. Naturally, some were going to respond to this style better than others.

Meaning you were either going to get on with this or you were not, with very little middle ground and those disliking his work really taking against it, actively fed up with scene after scene of apparently nothing happening but idiotic chit-chat. If you were on Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?'s wavelength, you might enjoy it a lot more, because there was a genuine affection for the bumbling romance of Zee and Eli, the latter played by Jaglom's brother and one of his stock company of players. Zee was another matter, and possibly the last excellent role Karen Black ever got before she was consigned to the wastelands of low budget, low profile releases, often a much-ignored horror or drama.

Black too was an acquired taste, and no more than she was here; often she would be drafted in to spice up a movie with her brand of crazy, something she appeared to embrace wholeheartedly for wont of anyone willing to give her a proper challenge which she may or may not have been up to, but with this, under Jaglom's guidance, she had a real opportunity and didn't pass it up. Zee may be, yes, neurotic, but she and Eli make an ideal couple as they work each other out and near-obliviously realise that they are just right for one another, each person's tics and idiosyncrasies complementing the other so that while they can hurt their relationship you get the impression this is still testing the waters.

Also worth watching, and one of the most memorable parts of the movie, even more perhaps than Black and Emil, was actor Michael Margotta who represents a threat to Zee and Eli's happiness as we see he is a womaniser who takes every chance to capitalise on any lady who even slightly shows an interest. But never mind that: check out his pigeon! When we first glimpse him with the bird we think he's simply approaching it in the street and it's some random city wildlife, but then he picks it up and starts performing with it and we twig this is a trained bird who doesn't fly away but continually returns to Margotta's hands or shoulders (pity his dry cleaner). For that novelty alone, and Eddie the pigeon gets a lot of attention, this is notable, as is Frances Fisher as the girlfriend on whose head the creature perches as she reads Anais Nin - Larry David is there as well - but then there's the amusements of Emil hanging upside down, monitoring his heart during sex, and Black announcing herself by tickling feet in a hilariously bizarre scene. She sings, too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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