California Suite (1978)
Uneven is an understatement when it comes to describing Neil Simon's alternately heartfelt and idiotic quiltwork California Suite. To start with the positives: This is a film which deals perceptively with the effects of the sexual and female liberation of the 1970s, and portrays the confusion and unresolved positions the liberees have been left in. Simon suggests that the freedom have made the women confused and nonplussed, whereas the men have profited from the reduced responsibility in the wake of it all. He might have had a point - even if it is not the one most people had in mind.
The rest of this film, however, is largely pointless, as Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby suffer themselves through a seemingly endless array of overdone and unfunny set-pieces of the worst slapstick comedy imaginable. There is no excuse for Ross' poor handling of this material, and it only makes the contrast to the beautiful and tender portrayal of the Caine/Smith relationship more baffling. The strength of this material, as well as the potent and relevant Kramer vs. Kramer for amicable intellectuals, starring a great-looking Alan Alda and an inspired Jane Fonda, should have been treated with more respect. Instead, California Suite comes off as a formal disaster, and a very unnecessary one at that.