Barefoot in the Park

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Corie (Jane Fonda), a free spirited young woman, and Paul Bratter (Robert Redford), a more conservative, less free-spirited man, are a recently married couple, who move into a fifth floor apartment in Greenwich Village (one of the ongoing jokes is the fact that everyone has to climb so many stairs to get to the apartment). Corie decorates the small, leaky apartment, turning it into a picturesque little home for the two. One of the many odd people living in the apartment building, the quirky Victor Velasco (Charles Boyer), befriends Corie, often even flirting with her. He lives in the attic of the building, once even climbing through the Bratters’ apartment window to get to his. Victor helps Corie with the apartment, teaching her how to work the seemingly broken heating and plumbing.

Corie sets up a dinner date with herself, Paul, their new friend and neighbor Victor, and Corie’s mother, Ethel Banks (Mildred Natwick) in a scheme to get Corie’s mother to fall for Victor; Corie feels that her mother is lonely now that she lives alone and needs love. Victor takes them all to an Albanian restaurant on Staten Island where he knows the owner. There, the group drinks, and Corie and Victor get up to dance with the belly dancer, while Paul and Ethel watch in embarrassment and awe. Afterwards, Corie and Victor return to the apartment in high energy as Paul and Ethel drag themselves with fatigue. As Victor escorts Ethel outside, Corie and Paul begin an argument over their differences. Corie feels her adventurous spirit is not equal to Paul’s cautious demeanor. One of the examples she gives is that he would not go barefoot in the park with her one evening. His excuse was that it was freezing. Corie says she will kick Paul out and get a big dog to protect her from him. Paul says maybe it will finally allow her to have someone who will go barefoot in the park with her. They eventually go to sleep, Corie in their tiny bedroom and Paul sleeping on the couch under a hole in the skylight on a snowy February night.

The next day, Paul comes home with a fever, but Corie still insists she wants a divorce. The two spend an awkward time together in their apartment before Corie kicks Paul out. She then gets a call from her aunt, saying that Ethel did not come home. Scared, Corie begins to panic, but eventually finds out that her mother was at Victor’s apartment. Apparently, while Victor was escorting her to her home in New Jersey the night prior, Ethel slipped on some ice, and Victor took her back to his apartment where they spent the night. Strangely, Ethel was wearing nothing but her undergarments and Victor’s Japanese kimono. Fearing for what seemed obvious, it turned out that Victor had Ethel’s dress drycleaned.

Meanwhile, drunk, Paul skips work and sits in Washington Square Park. With her mother’s advice, Corie goes out searching for Paul and finds him, drunk and running shoeless and barefoot through the park. The once cautious Paul is now a fun loving drunk while cautious Corie chases after him in order to get him to sober up. Eventually, Paul says it’s his apartment too and he’s going back home. Corie follows. Back at the apartment, Paul, still fairly drunk, climbs onto the roof of the apartment. Scared he might fall, Corie begs him to come down while speaking to him through the hole in the glass ceiling. He says he will only come down if she repeats after him. He wants her to admit that her husband is a crazy drunk, when a few nights before she scolded him for being so cautious and practical even when he is drunk. Meanwhile, realizing where he is, Paul becomes scared after almost falling off the building. Corie tries to climb up onto the roof to help him down but Paul does not want her to leave him. Corie asks Paul to sing an Albanian folk song they had heard at the restaurant that Victor has taken them to. While he sings, Corie climbs up to the roof to help him down. A crowd of onlookers starts to gather in the street, watching along, including Corie’s mother, Ethel, and her new love, Victor. When Corie reaches Paul, they kiss and climb back down as the crowd cheers on.

REVIEW:

A few months back, I was researching something, I forgot what, and Barefoot in the Park was listed as one of the best film for what I was looking for. Since then, it has just been holding a place in my Netflix queue, until today (the last day it is going to be available, coincidentally). Does this flick live up to the praise that has been bestowed upon it? Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

A pair of newlyweds — he, a stuffed-shirt lawyer, she, a free spirit — attempt to adapt to each other and life in a small Greenwich Village flat.

What did I like?

Couple’s chemistry. How many times have we seen a newlywed couple in film that has little to no chemistry together? Sometimes we come across a pair that even appear to despise and detest each other. Well, with the coupling of Robert Redford and (the still smoking hot) Jane Fonda, we get a couple that not only looks the part, but they really convey that sense of love that you would see in a pair of newlyweds if you were to meet them in person.

Boy-er, oh Boy-er. I don’t know much about Charles Boyer, except that Walt Disney talked him out of retirement to sing the French lyrics to the theme from my favorite Disney film, The Aristocats and then there is that episode of I Love Lucy where he plays himself playing an actor who looks like him. This is my first chance seeing the guy act, even if it is a bit more eccentric character than what he is known for. It isn’t very hard to see why women were swooning over this guy back in the day. He has the talent, sophistication, and looks that would be sure to drive the ladies crazy. Think of him as a French Denzel Washington, if you want a modern day comparison.

Comedy. Being that this is a romantic comedy, you can never be too sure which genre is going to be more prominent, the comedy or the romance (drama). Believe it or not, there isn’t much in the way of drama to be found, save for the denouement in the film’s final 15 minutes or so. I was pleasantly surprised. No, this isn’t a laugh out loud flick, but it does provide a few chuckles and never gets too serious, which is right up my alley. Surely, I’m not the only one tired of seeing dark and seriousness at every turn, right?

What didn’t I like?

Turn on a dime. I know that women are prone to mood swings, but Jane Fonda takes the cake! First off, the film starts with her not being secure with the marriage, even though it hadn’t even been an hour, yet! Later on, she suddenly turns into a bitch because of a difference of opinion between she and Redford. Slight differences are nothing to end a marriage over. Hell, if they’re that big of a deal, then why even get married in the first place, I ask you! I couldn’t take Fonda’s going from sweet and innocent lover girl to raging bitch, sorry.

Step by step. A running gag throughout the film is that the happy couple lives at the top of a 6 story building with no elevator, so everyone has to walk up the stairs, which leaves them out of breath and ready to collapse by the time they get up there. Two thing about this. First, if they are so out of shape that this wears them out, they probably wouldn’t even make it that far, but if they did, I seriously doubt they would be panting like they had just run the Boston Marathon. Second, it was a nice gag the first 2 or 3 times, but the joke go old quick, as they wore it out very quickly.

The play’s the thing. I’m not really sure if this is good or bad, but at times, the film feels as if it happening on stage. For those that don’t know, this is based on the play of the same name. Some of the stage direction, for lack of a better term, works while at other times it just seems as if they copied and pasted movements and sets as a way to save money, rather than produce a quality product.

So, after all that, I bet you’re still wondering why this is called Barefoot in the Park, right? Well, that is a simple answer. The phrase refers to the carefree lifestyle which Redford is not accustomed. Redford is a straight-laced, conservative type, but after he is a bit liquored up, he lets go and dances “barefoot in the park”. So, do I recommend this film? Yes and no. What I mean by that is that while it is a very well-made and film, I would not recommend it. In the end you, have to make the decision,

4 out of 5 stars

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