DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SECRET LIFE OF AN AMERICAN WIFE, THE (director/writer/producer: George Axelrod; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: Harry Gerstad; music: Billy May; cast: Walter Matthau (The Movie Star), Anne Jackson (Victoria Layton), Patrick O'Neal (Tom Layton), Edy Williams (Suzie Steinberg), Richard Bull (Howard), Paul Napier (Herb Steinberg); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; 20th Century Fox; 1968)

 
"A morality play about suburban life."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Secret Life of an American Wife is director/writer/producer George Axelrod's ("Lord Love A Duck") acerbic immoral romantic comedy, a morality play about suburban life. Axelrod makes no bones about it taking the feminine angle on The Seven Year Itch (which he also scripted from his own play). It's a lightweight sitcom styled comedy that has a 34-year-old married Connecticut suburban housewife Victoria Layton (Ann Jackson) question her sexual desirability. She's the wife of public-relations man Tom Layton (Patrick O'Neal), whose biggest client is the renown virile movie star played deliciously by Walter Matthau. Hubby's agency secures top-line $100 an hour call girls for his aging star-client, Matthau. When Jackson finds this out, she manages to pass herself off as a call girl sent to Matthau's hotel suite as she anxiously tries to prove to herself that she has sex appeal. Matthau turns out to be a dour neurotic, with sinus trouble.

The heart of the movie is centered around this very talky, seductive meeting of Matthau and Jackson. Jackson seeks reassurance of her sexual worth after her delivery boy fails to notice her in the buff. The film sheds no new light on marital problems from the woman's point of view, and I did not find it especially funny throughout except for a few one-liners and the centerpiece bedroom sequence. In that 25-minute sequence the pair strips away their defense mechanisms and pretenses and touch base on some pretty funny developments. But that admittedly brilliantly drawn out sequence was not enough to overcome the film's overall tedium.

REVIEWED ON 4/23/2004        GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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