Cactus Flower (1969)
“and so with all its breakout joy, “Cactus Flower” comes full bloom to the screen”
Cactus Flower (1969)
Director: Gene Saks
Cast: Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn
Synopsis: A dentist pretends to be married to avoid commitment, but when he falls for his girlfriend and proposes, he must recruit his lovelorn nurse to pose as his wife.
What is it about late-1960s movies that make them seem so dated today? I mean, they look so much more dated than their predecessors from the 50’s and earlier. The embarrassed grimaces induced by the fashions in Cactus Flower become slit-eyed cringes of distress upon viewing the distressing dances performed by the patrons of the movies “trendy” disco. In one uncomfortable scene the wonderful Ingrid Bergman, the woman who has enchanted generations in Casablanca (and who, in this movie, looked pretty much unchanged from those more productive days), invents and performs a dance called ‘the dentist’ that actually had me feeling embarrassed for her. Ok, I know it’s a comedy, but that must have looked lame even then!
A movie like Cactus Flower – in which the audience knows the outcome as soon as the basic premise of the story has been established – stands or falls on the quality of its writing and performances. We’re either carried on a journey replete with captivating scenes that contain unexpected detours to make the minutes fly, or we crawl along a straight and uninspired road, our destination always in sight but never seeming to get any closer. Well, in this movie the road is as straight as a die, never wavering from the course it has set itself. Its one saving grace is the performance from the three leads – no mean accomplishment as Walter Matthau (Fail-Safe, JFK) and Ingrid Bergman (Spellbound, Anastasia) are both miscast, a problem which is exaggerated by the fact that they’re just not right together on the screen: Matthau’s character looks and acts like too much of a slob to be attractive to his prim and rather straight-laced secretary. Goldie Hawn is perky and attractive as Matthau’s girlfriend, although the contrast between his grizzled old physog and Her childlike winsomeness sometimes makes Matthau look like a dirty old man (He was twice her age when the movie was made).
(Reviewed 7th February 2002)