Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"40 Carats" is funny play, flick tries to be too serious

Cleveland Press August 25, 1973

"40 Carats," a popular farce-comedy of a few seasons back, has made it to the screen but has not made it well.

The picture is sporadically funny. It also gets sporadically serious, and not only is that not funny, it isn't good.

The problems are matters of miscasting, misconception and misdirection.

The story is about a 40-year-old divorced woman who has a one-night affair with a 22-year-old American man while vacationing in Greece.

Back in New York where she runs a rental agency and supports a 17-year-old daughter and a 60-year-old mother the boy turns up as a date for daughter.

But the boy is really in pursuit of mom, object: matrimony. And the 17-year-old gets involved with her mother's 45-year-old man friend.

The play by Jay Lerner was based on a French comedy by Barillet and Gredy, the same parlay that resulted in "Cactus Flower." But screenwriter Leonard Gershe ("Butterflies Are Free"), while sharpening up some of the lines has also gone serious. Granted that the story of a woman of 40 marrying a man of 22 is worthy of some serious comment, but this was never the intent of "40 Carats" and the result is that the comedy simply stops for some misplaced dramatic scenes.

Liv Ullman, brilliant actress from so many of the Ingmar Bergman movies, has been miscast as the older woman. Not looking old enough and being sporadically glamorous are only parts of the problem. The Norwegian actress is not comfortable in her English dialog. Timing is off, emphasis misplaced and lines are thrown away.

The boy is played with convincing though sometimes overdone seriousness by Edward Albert. Binnie Barnes as the mother and Gene Kelly as Miss Ullman's ex-husband are miscast.

And everyone is overacting as though afraid that some vital point might be missed.Surely director Milton Katselas could have kept this down.

The elements of farce -- fast entrances and exits, slamming doors, simultaneous bits of action seemingly destined for head-on disaster -- have been mostly eliminated.

The suggestion that the ex-husband is a womanizer and that the young man's mother flits around also have been scrubbed. The confrontation between the 40-year-old bride-to-be and her future in-laws is something out of a soap opera.

And yet there are moments.

Nancy Walker as the secretary in the rental agency knows what comedy is all about and she can deliver her few lines with devastating effect And the scenes in which the future mixups are beginning to take shape retain their flavor.

But then someone thought there was heavy drama buried in all this. Maybe there is, but it should have been left buried.