Willie and Phil (1980)

Willie and Phil (1980)

“A woman is not allowed to come between two men who are friends. It’s not allowed! It’s illegal!”

In the 1970s, two friends (Michael Ontkean and Ray Sharkey) fall in love with the same woman (Margot Kidder) while exploring alternate lifestyles.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Friendship
  • Love Triangle
  • Margot Kidder Films
  • Paul Mazursky Films
  • Romantic Comedy

Paul Mazursky’s disappointing homage to Jules et Jim (1962) falls flat on every count. We never care for these three characters, nor do we particularly understand why they become friends and then lovers. As Pauline Kael writes, “Jeannette doesn’t live up to what Willie and Phil say about her, and they don’t live up to what the narrator… says about them.” Indeed, Mazursky’s annoying voiceover merely distances us further from these two-dimensional folks. Finally, the trio’s experiments with acid, free love, living off the land, and spirituality may have been a fun trip down memory road when the film was released in 1980, but have been portrayed countless times since then, and offer nothing new to our understanding of the ’70s.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A sometimes clever overview of 1970s “lifestyle” choices and spiritual searches (but done much better in many other films)

Must See?
No. This homage to Jules et Jim is a major disappointment.


One thought on “Willie and Phil (1980)

  1. First and last viewing. Skip it.

    This is one of Mazursky’s boring movies – but then, his movies (some a little more successful than others) tend to lean toward being boring. However – this one is not only boring, it’s also sometimes painfully boring (as in incompetent).

    It’s so tied to being a more open-minded, (relatively) angst-free version of ‘Jules and Jim’ that it really has no room to breathe and nowhere to go. The narrative is without interesting development of any kind – and, yes, its needless narration is annoying.

    The actors flounder without let-up. Finally, it unconvincingly reaches a climax awkwardly concocted for the sake of drama.

    The only thing that works here – as expected – is Sven Nykvist’s gorgeous cinematography. Thank God it’s lovely to look at – still, that’s no real compensation for something this dead-on-arrival.

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