The War Between Men and Women (1972)
Comedy writer and director Melville Shavelson takes a stab at an uneven mixture of comedy and an odd sense of style with Jack Lemmon as the central figure in this tale of relationships.
The credits are presented appropriately in a cartoon style. This in keeping with Jack’s character as he is cartoonist with a penchant for comical drawings aimed at putting down women. His latest book is the title of our film.
It’s at a book release party hosted by Herb Edelman that he meets a divorced mother of three children played by Barbara Harris who is sure to turn his bachelor life upside down. He’s quick to welcome the sexual nature of their late night meetings but isn’t so fast at the commitment that is the next logical step.
Once he gets around to the proposal and a wedding date the first husband turns up just as the vows are taking place. It’s Jason Robards who seems to be everything Lemmon is not in the eyes of the three children. He’s a war photographer and goes where ever the battles take him. Robards’ entrance here is filled with slapstick humor at the wedding. When the skies open up dumping buckets of rain on the wedding, Lemmon slips and it’s Jason who carries the bride over the threshold.
Then it’s off to the beach with the wife and kids for Jack. Sure enough, Robards is in tow and seems to be having fun with Harris as they duet with guitar and song. Surprisingly the two men hit it off once they drown their sorrows in a bottle later that night sending Harris off to the bedroom alone.
It’s at this point I was hoping the humor was going to pick up and turn into a free for all in the battle for Harris. Something like a Will Ferell vs. John C. Reilly match up. Or how about a Lemmon – Matthau war. That would come years later in the fight for Ann-Margret. Sadly for me the script did not go in that direction and more or less took a turn towards the dramatics. Jack`s slowly losing his eyesight and aside from a good comical bit with Edelman breaking down over Lemmon`s impending operation the film meanders to a cartoon backdrop finale.
It`s the overall style of this flick that wasn`t to my liking. At various times we`ll find Jack looking directly into the camera and talking to the viewer. The cartoon filled ending didn`t sit well with me either. Aside from Robards all too brief appearance I found this rather dull. Who would have thought that a comedy needed more Jason Robards!
Perhaps the title had me expecting much more of a battle of the sexes style film of which this is definitely not. The release on DVD from Olive Films did however let me catch up with this Jack Lemmon film. One which I had never seen so at least we have another check mark on the Lemmon filmography.