by Marc Kandel
This pic stands heads above most “comedies” released, certainly in terms of most films today. It’s a bold statement that I will heartedly back up, because this film juggles all the zaniness, vulgarity, idiocy and masterful Stooge/Sellers-Class slapstick overwhelming anything a Farrelly or a Phillips can put out today by making the jokes punch even harder as they come amid captivating drama, desperation, sadness, and yes, even songs with piano accompaniment.“10” follows George Webber (Dudley Moore) through an incapacitating mid-life crisis distancing him from his work as a composer, his lover Samantha Taylor (Julie Andrews in an extremely funny, touching, supporting role, playing the straight (wo)man against Dudley’s frenzied antics), his friends, and pretty much all of his good judgment, to the audience’s great pleasure.
"Bo, Booze, Acapulco, Novocaine-fueled Orgies…I want this mid-life crisis"
George is despondent about his omnipresent middle age, longing for a taste of the wilder side of things, tired and frustrated from only seeing it from afar, be it hiding behind a vase of flowers at a beautiful woman’s wedding, or through his telescope spying on his swinging neighbor’s bachelor pad, filled to the brim with naked, lascivious partygoers. Emotional mania is touched off by George witnessing the aforementioned gorgeous woman on the way to her wedding. George immediately becomes unhealthily obsessed with her- to the point of abandoning his responsibilities to his career and relationships and following the beautiful bride to her honeymoon on an impulsive, ill-conceived, self-destructive quest to hunt for this perfect woman, heedless of the cost to the people that actually care about him, and ignorant of the dangers of only seeing things from the most superficial perspective. The woman, for those of you awaking from your 4 decades of coma, is Bo Derek in her career starter, a woman so undeniably sensuous and voluptuous that she surpasses my Nicole Kidman standard of “Ludicrously Hot,” reaching hotness that could only be described as “Plaid” (and thank you Mel Brooks).
And so we set upon a series of misadventures so hilarious, so outrageous, that there is rarely a moment when the audience does not enjoy a good belly laugh over George’s mishaps and befuddled pursuits. The key in making the tale a memorable, wonderful film, however, are all the very real moments in between the pratfalls, eccentric personalities, and wild sex, where George and even some of the other characters step out of the craziness to really reflect on the damage being done in George’s quest to live the life defined by the vision of the perfect “10” that he has never experienced before.
George is selfish, destructive, and hurtful to a great many people in his life trying to help him or even console him in his depressive binge. He rudely casts Samantha aside during a pre-lovemaking session and the next time she sees George, it is through his telescope observing him blundering around his neighbor’s latest orgy (believe me, you haven’t had anyone mad at you until you’ve had Mary Poppins call you a “miserable little shit”). George’s good friend and musical assistant Hugh, played by Robert Webber, tries to give him some perspective on being happy, but George ends up nastily pointing out the fact that Hugh’s boyfriend, whom Hugh is supposedly living a happy and content life with, is pretty much a kept man living off Hugh’s good fortune- a parasite with a six pack. Dee Wallace plays Mary Lewis, a one-night-stand that goes awry when George just isn’t into her (or is at least, too drunk to be in her), as she just doesn’t measure up to his current goal. Mary’s painful sadness at this latest rejection and George’s clumsy attempts to extricate himself from the situation make for some uncomfortable moments (Wallace is heartbreaking). So George is a right bastard- the trick is that Dudley Moore has the talent, charm and brains to make us love the weasel, finding the beautiful things about the character, but unafraid to really explore the bad. Put this together with a really fun story of desire, human nature and self-examination, and you have something special-and extremely funny.
Today, George Webber would most probably be played by Ben Stiller, perhaps Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughan or even Jim Carrey (me, if I were forced at gunpoint into a remake, I’d probably pick Larry David or Paul Giamatti); and sure, these guys can be funny when handled properly, but have never made me feel the empathy towards their everyman stumblebums the way that Dudley Moore does in “10” (with the exception of Giamatti). There are scenes where he leaves the slapstick and trademark earsplitting howling laughter behind and simply becomes a very muted, feeling human being with his soul on display- he isn’t trying to make us laugh at him in the quiet moments, he doesn’t go for eyebrow twitches or smirks or the infinitely bothersome “let me say my serious lines in very self-aware deadpan tone - in effect making them “funny” because most of the mental defective hipster assholes in the audience seem to get a slack-jawed chuckle out of this, despite how many times this delivery has been trotted out for the past 5-6 years.”
Instead, we are given an honest performance that does not rely on shallow affectations, and this, plus the backup from an equally fine, committed cast, is what gives the movie a lasting resonance. There is a complexity Moore brings to George, who is at once laughable, charming, likeable, enviable, pitiable, and not a little reprehensible that surpasses pretty much anything I have seen from the above contenders (again exempting Giamatti) when faced with similar characters. Moore is unafraid to give us a character that we might not necessarily respect all that much at times, but we can always empathize with, and certainly enjoy. And please motherfuckers, tell me you wouldn’t give 1979 Bo Derek a try if you had the shot. Hell, I’d probably throw her a bang now- looked pretty humpable last time I saw her on anything. Okay- losing point… find focus…
“10” is a comedy that expertly illustrates the genius to be found in combining touching romance, gratuitous nudity, genuine pathos, orgies, talented Henry Mancini musical numbers, dental anesthesia, and Dudley Moore. And bonus points- they added the word “Faggotry” to my lexicon- As in “Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin is a testament to the excess of rampant, unconscionable faggotry.” Director Blake Edwards proves yet again that he is one of the uncontested directorial greats in comedic cinema- and a remarkably dirty man to boot.Check out this classic for a lesson on how truly classy, irrepressibly lewd comedies are made. Then tell me how you can give “Starsky and Hutch” or “Meet the Fockers” even four minutes of your time.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1911&reviewer=358
originally posted: 04/17/05 13:32:46