Sunday, August 10, 2014

#1,455. Seems Like Old Times (1980)

Directed By: Jay Sandrich

Starring: Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, Charles Grodin

UK Tag line: "Alone - at last . . ."

Trivia: Paul McCartney wrote and recorded an ultimately unused song as the title track for this movie

Neil Simon’s 1980 comedy Seems Like Old Times is another film I watched ad nauseam on cable TV back in the day, though for some reason I always tuned in after it had started, usually at about the half hour mark. I have no idea why this happened so often. Just bad timing, I guess. But I would sit and watch it nonetheless, because it always made me laugh. 

Still, it’s kinda odd; I’ve seen the entire movie, start to finish, maybe three times total, but I bet I’ve seen the last hour or so at least a dozen and a half!

While working on his latest novel, writer Nick Gardenia (Chevy Chase) is abducted by a couple of thieves (Judd Omen and Mark Alaimo) and forced to hold up a bank. Caught in the act by the bank’s security camera, Nick is soon on the run, hunted by every cop in California, and in an effort to clear his name turns to the only person he can trust: his ex-wife Glenda (Goldie Hawn), a public defender with a soft spot for both dogs (she has six of them) and criminals (Glenda ends up hiring everyone she defends; her Chauffeur, Chester, played by T.K. Carter, is a former client). 

The only problem is, Glenda has since re-married, and her new husband Ira (Charles Grodin) is a District Attorney who was just hand-picked by the Governor (George Grizzard) to become the state’s next Attorney General! Naturally, the fact that his wife’s ex-husband is now wanted for bank robbery might hurt his chances at landing the job, so Ira and his top assistant, Fred (Robert Guillaume), do everything they can to track Nick down and bring him to justice. 

Unbeknownst to Ira, he need look no further than his own house to find Nick, who turned up to convince Glenda that he’s innocent. Trapped in what seems like an impossible situation, Glenda tries to get Nick to surrender to the authorities while at the same time keeping him hidden from Ira, who would surely blow a gasket if he knew her ex was close by.

Along with its clever dialogue (something writer Neil Simon excelled in), Seems Like Old Times features a strong cast, all of whom do their utmost to keep it from becoming just another formulaic romantic comedy. Chase’s deadpan delivery made him the perfect choice to play Nick, the sarcastic yet likable loser who still loves Glenda, yet has turned her life into a living hell (at one point, Nick is hiding under the bed in Ira’s and Glenda’s guest house while Ira is sleeping there). 

Grodin is also quite good as the oft-annoyed Ira, who can’t understand why his wife insists on helping a fugitive, even if she was once married to him (Surprisingly, Grodin was nominated for Worst Supporting Actor at that year’s Razzie Awards for his performance, an “honor” he certainly didn’t deserve). 

The real star, however, is Goldie Hawn as the lawyer with a heart of gold forced to choose between the husband she loves and the ex she still has feelings for. Time and again throughout the movie, Hawn reveals just how gifted a comedienne she is, and on more than one occasion steals the show from her two co-stars (the courtroom scenes where she banters back and forth with Harold Gould’s Judge are among the film’s high points). 

Rounding out the cast is T.K. Carter as the ex-con / chauffeur and Yvonne Wilder as the high-strung maid, both of whom also get their share of laughs.

A former ‘50s TV writer with Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, where he worked alongside the likes of Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, Neil Simon turned out a number of Broadway hits (many of which, including Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, and The Prisoner of Second Avenue, were adapted for the big screen) before trying his luck in Hollywood, penning the screenplays for, among others, The Heartbreak Kid, Murder by Death, The Goodbye Girl, and Max Dugan Returns

I’ve always been a fan of Simon’s work (along with the above, I enjoyed the screen versions of Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues), which usually features both witty dialogue and well-developed characters. A smart romantic comedy with a superior cast, Seems Like Old Times is certainly no exception.

No comments: