Barefoot in the Park (Gene Saks, 1967) USA

Reviewed by Carolina Ayala de Anselmo. Seen at the AFI Film Festival.

In its 50th anniversary, AFI decided to showcase classics that were released at the same year as the Film Institute was been created in between the hundreds of new movies the festival was promoting. One of the movies selected was the timeless romantic comedy “Barefoot in the Park”, starring screen legends Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Directed by legendary movie and stage director Gene Saks, who alone was nominated for 7 Tony Awards, and based on the play by Neil Simon, the movie fails to disappoint even 50 years later. In fact, it was one of my favorite shows at the AFI. Among so many slow paced, minimum dialogue movies, Barefoot in the Park enchants with its clever dialogues, funny comments and sexual intentions.┬áLaunched as a Broadway show in 1963 (directed by Mike Nichols) and adapted for the cinema by the author himself, the story of love and disagreement between a couple who discovers that marriage is more than the honeymoon turned out to be the first box office success of two young actors who would soon be turning into idols: Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.

“Barefoot in the Park” begins shortly after the wedding ceremony of young, beautiful and healthy Paul and Corie Bratter, who will take less than a week to realize that married life does not boil down to the six days Honeymoon at the Plaza Hotel. As soon as they move into the tiny apartment on the fifth floor of a building without elevators – chosen by Corie in her eagerness to venture into the marriage routine – the two go through crisis after crisis, whether due to the small size of their home, or because of the bizarre neighborhood or even because they start to notice one another’s unattractive personality traits. Corie despises the conservative way of her husband, who, in turn, perceives in his wife an almost childish desire to enjoy every pleasure in life – including alongside the eccentric neighbor, Victor Velasco (Charles Boyer), that she intends to marry her mother, Ethel (Mildred Natwick, Academy Award nominee for her part). The crisis, which seems fleeting, ends up extending more than expected, and both will be forced to question their marriage.

“Barefoot in the Park” adds to the genre romantic comedy a new twist – subverting the formula “boy meets girl” and already begin his narrative with the couple of protagonists married. And even further, shows a female protagonist that is not afraid to put her happiness first. Brilliant dialogues and impeccable cast make up for some slower, unnecessary moments. Much of what works – the constant references to the stairs that lead to the apartment, for example – comes from Neil Simon’s talent for extracting humor from the everyday and the fiery chemistry between Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Who would come to star in other three films together. They are so nice and charismatic that whenever they are on the scene they forget the loss of rhythm of certain situations created by the script and transform a simple and unpretentious film into a funny, timeless piece.

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