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The Only Game in Town (1970)

Director:
George Stevens
COUNTRY
USA
GENRE
Drama/Romance
NORWEGIAN TITLE
Det eneste spillet
RUNNING TIME
113 minutes
Producer:
Fred Kohlmar
Edgar Lansbury
Screenwriter:
Frank D. Gilroy


Cast includes:

CHARACTER ACTOR/ACTRESS RATING
Fran Walker Elizabeth Taylor
Joe Grady Warren Beatty
Thomas Lockwood Charles Braswell

 

Review

This film, which turned out to be George Stevens' last, is a partly enjoyable, partly agonizing symbiosis of modern dialogue and stilted staging, of elegance and clumsiness, and of two stars with conspicuously diverging acting styles: a fresh and youthful Warren Beatty, and a jaded, declining Elizabeth Taylor. The latter nonconformity is the main reason why the romance between the two never really works in addition to some cowardice in the bedroom scenes on Stevens' (and probably the it-couple Taylor/Burton's) part. So while you want to believe the Beatty character's attraction to Taylor, her somewhat dated fragility and forced working-class persona (with which she is not in touch) makes her implausable as a 1970 Vegas chorus girl.

The scenes that work the best are those which Beatty is able to spice up with some of his impeccable comic delivery and timing. Beatty impresses dramatically, too. He was probably never more assured (or good-looking) than he was here; in a better film this could have been an award-winning performance. His character is an altogether interesting study, but although his predicaments and even the love triangle per se is well-written, Stevens isn't able to handle it. Granted, the fact that the film was shot in Paris (at Taylor/Burton's insistence) and therefore feels so confined doesn't help either, but the biggest problem is Stevens' inadequate direction in the interpersonal scenes. It seems he was hoping that if he kept the camera rolling, things would eventually make sense. The film fares better at presenting the Beatty character's gambling problem, which is presented with sensitivity, even if the repercussions of it for the relationship between him and Taylor isn't really tackled.

The Only Game in Town is a flawed film, to put it mildly, but it's got enough going for it, including some eye-candy (Beatty) and ear-candy (Maurice Jarre's jazzy score), to make it worth a look.

Copyright 15.3.2017 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang

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