Barefoot in the Park (1967)

“Corie, if it’s a good marriage, it’ll last until 5:30.”

Barefoot in the Park Poster

Synopsis:
A newlywed couple — fun-loving Corie (Jane Fonda) and straitlaced Paul (Robert Redford) — struggle to adjust to married life in a tiny New York apartment.

Genres:

Review:
This early Neil Simon romantic comedy (based on his own long-running Broadway play) remains a surprisingly irritating and dated dud. The primary problem lies with Fonda’s character — an enthusiastic young housewife who’s either clinging rapaciously to her husband’s shirt-tails or petulantly throwing a fit; one desperately wishes she could channel her energies into some kind of career. (Many actresses were apparently considered for the role of “Corie”, yet she’s so poorly written that it’s actually difficult to imagine anyone having better success with her than Fonda.) We’re presumably meant to sympathize with poor Redford’s character (a stand-in for Simon himself) — an every-man who simply wants to go to work and earn a living; but he’s so dull and under-written that we don’t care much for him, either. Another critical concern is that we aren’t given sufficient motivation to care about the ultimate survival of this couple’s sexually charged yet perilously unstable marriage, which suffers from seemingly irreconcilable personality differences (she’s free-spirited and likes to walk “barefoot in the park”, while he’s more conservative). Meanwhile, a critical subplot involving Fonda’s attempt to set up her single mother (Mildred Natwick) with an enigmatic foodie neighbor (Charles Boyer) is simply tiresome — as are the running “gags” about how tiny and elevated the couple’s new apartment is.

Note: Simon would rework the basic concept of conflicting personality types attempting (unsuccessfully) to live together in his infinitely more clever and enjoyable comedy The Odd Couple (1968).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Mildred Natwick as Fonda’s mother, Ethel
    Barefoot in the Park Natwick

Must See?
No; skip this one.

Links:

One Response to “Barefoot in the Park (1967)”

  1. Not a must – a dismal film, indeed!

    This is pretty much what sums up ‘BITP’: In the film, the young newlyweds live on the top floor of an apartment building…with no elevator. So…people must walk up many flights of stairs. And, my!, doesn’t that just knock the wind out of a person?! Among various characters, this joke is milked to death. And it’s not funny the first time, so… That’s what you’ve got here: a ‘comedy’ that firmly believes in hitting you over the head with repeated gags, along with a thin premise stretched until it snaps.

    I can’t fully fault Fonda here; she has been a more agile performer with comedy than many give her credit for (i.e., the under-rated ‘Sunday in New York’, etc.). But this movie is a slog, and not much of anything here works.

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