This bawdy, Academy Award®-winning farce, which reunites The Apartment’s Lemmon and MacLaine (in a Best Actress Oscar®-nominated performance), is a “charming antic romantic comedy” (The New York Times) directed and co-written by Billy Wilder.
Meet Nestor (Jack Lemmon), a young man with a very complicated love life. Employed as business manager to Irma La Douce (Shirley MacLaine) – a proud and profitable lady of the streets – the poor guy had gone and fallen in love with her! So how do you keep a popular Parisiennne like Irma faithful? Simple. Disguise yourself as an elderly English Lord who immediately becomes Irma’s sole client and means of support! But what’s a jealous manager to do when the illustrious Irma claims that the man she’s really in love with is not the smitten Nestor but the dotty old lord himself?
Irma la Douce 6.0
“To be overly honest in a dishonest world is like plucking a chicken against the wind… you’ll only wind up with a mouth full of feathers.”
Eh bien… I remembered liking ‘Irma la Douce’ more than I did the other night. I had only seen it the once before, a few years ago, and was quite looking forward to, not only seeing it again, but actually owning a copy on DVD.
This time around, however, I found this farce far too contrived and full of bull to truly appreciate. To me, it was kind of like an extended episode of ‘Three’s Company’ – and by extended, I mean to say that this film is almost two and half hours long! So, if you don’t get into it, it will feel like an endless chore.
“It’s a hard way to earn an easy living.“
Personally, I love the concept; it’s rife with comedic potential. Unfortunately, most situations were developed in ways that are too incredible for me to wrap my mind around, the dialogue isn’t exactly rich in wit, and Jack Lemmon’s physical comedy shtick was off – too overdone to be funny (he reminded me of Jim Carrey – although not as energetic, and without Carrey’s innate talent).
I also loved the production, even though it is in no way realistic – there’s no mistaking these sets for location shooting. However, I’ve come to enjoy Mirisch productions over the years (likely due to my total adoration of the original Pink Panther movies! ) and they’re like comfort food to me. Anyway, since the film is based on a play (and it shows in the set ups!), it’s quite fitting that it’s on a soundstage.
“This is not just a job, it’s a profession.”
Strangely enough, being that I tend to revere Billy Wilder, I found his directorial choices sometimes weak here; scenes fell flat when they probably shouldn’t have, or some of the humour was poorly timed. To make matters worse, the performers often didn’t seem to have their hearts in it, going along for the ride but not really feeling it (case-in-point: Shirley MacLaine’s dance number on the pool table, which was utterly soulless).
Still, if one enjoys a traditional farce, and one can look beyond all the ridiculous loose ends, one could do worse than spending an evening with ‘Irma la Douce’. Conversely, it could be a rough go for anyone who doesn’t, because it won’t let up – both in its content or its length.
Post scriptum: after this disappointment, I have to say that I’m less enthused than I initially was when I decided to have a Billy Wilder-fest. I know that have a few no-fail classics coming up, but I’m beginning to be wary of the ones I’m less familiar with. I suppose that we soon shall see, shan’t we?
“But that’s another story…”