Friday, September 20, 2013

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) ***1/2

It’s a shame this move is weighed down by such a cumbersome name.  It’s an excellent, very sexy movie about swinging married couples in the late ’60’s.
Bob (Robert Culp) and Carol (Natalie Wood) attend a New Age, group therapy session that transforms their relationship and consciousness.  Suddenly they are asking everyone how they “feel” about things, and urging everyone to tell the “real truth.”  Their newfound enlightenment prompts Bob to confess immediately after having an affair, and that same enlightenment allows Carol to laugh it off without jealousy.  When Carol turns the tables, it takes Bob slightly longer to get into the groove, but ultimately they are really both very hip about the whole thing.  Their best friends, Ted (Elliott Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon) have a harder time accepting the whole grooviness of this lifestyle when they learn of it.
I should temper my praise for the movie with a warning that it is quite chatty.  “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” is hilarious at times, but it is also a serious movie about sex and relationships.  It is not paced like a romantic comedy.  The characters have long conversations, which for me is the strength of the film.  They really take time to explore these issues of love, sex, jealousy, and friendship.  The film is an excellent time capsule of what some people were thinking about these subjects back in the swinging ‘60’s.
“Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” reminds me of another movie, “Carnal Knowledge,” starring Jack Nicholson, Candace Bergen, and Art Garfunkel.  Both films were groundbreaking in their frank exploration of sexual politics.  The difference is that “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” is much easier to watch.  The characters are generally good people, which makes the film perhaps less grittily realistic than “Carnal Knowledge,” but definitely more fun.  Also, Natalie Wood is absolutely adorable and looks great in her underwear!

3.5 stars out of 5

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