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A middle aged restaurateur begins to feel the desire to roam and realizes that one day each week, his mother's apartment will be empty all afternoon. He makes several attempts at seduction, only to learn that it is much more complicated and difficult than he could have imagined.
In his middle-class home in Great Neck, New York, forty-five¿year-old fish restaurant owner Barney Cashman awakens next to his wife Thelma. For the first time in their twenty-two year marriage, he is consumed with thoughts of other women, and addresses God directly in a neurotic inner dialogue filled with equal parts dread and desire. At the Manhattan restaurant that afternoon, attractive Elaine Navazio flirts with Barney, and to his own shock, he invites her to his mother's apartment, knowing his mother is at work until five o'clock. There, in the chintz-covered living room, Barney sets up the scene of his seduction with great anxiety. Just as he has decided to leave, Elaine arrives and stalks around the apartment, jaded and sophisticated. Barney admits that he is nervous and asks her about her husband, prompting her to break into a hacking cough, after which she asks for a cigarette. Elaine vacillates between derisiveness and sympathy for Barney's clumsy inexperience, but chides him for his inaction, pointing out that they have less than two hours left. While he hedges, she drinks, and after he rebukes her for being cold and detached, she prepares to leave, raging about the dreary apartment, endless chatter and small glasses of whisky. Barney begs her to stay, but she states that she is bored and walks out. Depressed, he wraps the glasses carefully to guard them from breakage, but just then she returns. Although he finally grabs her passionately, his kiss is so forceful that they fall onto the sofa, her lip bleeding. When he again interrupts the proceedings to learn more about her, she reacts with flippant disdain, wanting only sex and cigarettes. In response, he calls her sad and pitiful, prompting Elaine to retort that he is a hypocrite and declare that she likes the pure physical act of making love, as does he. Finally spurred to action, Barney sits her on a chair and discourses passionately: He has been with only two women in his whole life and has never had affair; does not smoke, drink or gamble; and considers his life unbearably boring. "Suddenly I think about dying all the time," he tells her, then admits that he wanted his one affair to be meaningful. Elaine points out that any man who expects a day of romance with a stranger he met in a fish restaurant is a fool. Wishing him good luck with his impossible dream, she strides out, and Barney vows never to attempt infidelity again.
On another similar day, Barney escapes the restaurant's broken air conditioner by sitting on a park bench. When a stunning young woman named Bobbi Michele sits next to him, he nervously chats to her, after which she reveals that she is a singer auditioning for a Broadway show. When she asks for twenty dollars to hire an accompanist, promising to repay him the following day and "express her deepest appreciation," he eagerly accepts and gives her his mother's address. By the time she shows up the next afternoon in a tiny dress, Barney, this time more comfortable, has stocked the apartment with packs of cigarettes and alcohol. Bobbi is a garrulous whirl of energy, and as she wanders the apartment touching things, he follows, wiping off her fingerprints. She admits that she does not have the money to repay him and did not get the role, but shows him stills from her movie, I Married an Ape , which she describes as Wuthering Heights with a gorilla. Bobbi's wild stories and bohemian lifestyle alarm Barney, who watches her smoke marijuana with great trepidation. Soon realizing that she is talentless and unstable, Barney tries to usher Bobbi out, but she mentions a former suicide attempt and then cunningly states that she will not leave until he smokes with her. Forced, he acquiesces, and soon he notes that he can hear his eyes blinking. Both dissolve into tears over their lot in life, and sing sad songs in unison.
Soon after, Thelma and Barney, who vows to himself never again to attempt an affair, attend Jeanette and Mel Fisher's cocktail party. There, all the guests are whispering about Mel's affair with Jeanette's best friend, while Jeanette, who knows about both the affair and the gossip, attempts to present a façade of cheer. Later, however, she pulls Barney into the kitchen and embraces him awkwardly, asking him to tell her she is attractive. In response, he invites her to his mother's apartment, and this time suavely perfects the atmosphere of seduction. When Jeanette shows up, however, she is weepy and fearful, and despite his attempt to comfort her, she runs out. He chases her down the street and into a café, where she loudly informs him that she does not find him physically attractive and no longer enjoys sex. Despite this, he lures her back to the apartment, but after she details her deep despair, they end up back in the café. Between her sobs she yells, "You're not gonna have a good time with me, Barney," to the vast interest of the other patrons. Back in the apartment, she decides to call Mel and reveal the affair, and although Barney manages to discourage this, his attempt to spur her lust by removing most of his clothes proves spectacularly unsuccessful. Jeanette insists that he name three decent people, and, donning his mother's bathrobe, he finally lists Albert Schweitzer, Christ and Thelma. When Jeanette seems unenthusiastic about Thelma, Barney defends his wife heatedly, then wonders in anguish about her decency. Jeanette responds that doubting such a honest woman is an indecent act, but calls Thelma an idiot for trusting Barney. Now both are depressed, and Barney reveals that he tried twice to have an affair but, because he was looking for something beautiful and sincere, nothing happened. Desperate, he urges Jeanette to embrace their indecency and grabs her, chasing her around the apartment and into the bathroom. There, she tries to placate him by calling him quiet, kind and good, and finally she breaks down, admitting that she really only wants Mel. "What's happened to the world?" she asks. Barney helps her into a taxi, then walks back to the restaurant, vowing never to do this again. Then, spotting a phone booth, he impulsively calls Thelma and invites her over to his mother's apartment.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
A Howard W. Koch Production of the Neil Simon Play
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||98 or 100||Country:||United States|
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