April 22, 2019  (Web Review)

Lovers and Other Strangers

Kino Lorber, 104 min., R, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

A hit 1970 feature film based on a successful play of the same title (both written by actors Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna, with Logan’s Run screenwriter David Zelag Goodman contributing to the adaptation), Lovers and Other Strangers is a frequently funny ensemble comedy with a light feel for traditional and disruptive sexual-marital norms. Michael Brandon plays Mike, who has been living secretly with his fiancée Susan (Bonnie Bedelia) prior to their planned wedding. Getting cold feet, Mike keeps sputtering out reasons why the ceremony should be called off, citing a counterculture view of marriage as irrelevant and hypocritical. While the couple sorts that out, other characters in their sphere have issues of their own. Mike’s brother Ritchie (Joseph Hindy) and his wife Joan (Diane Keaton, in her film debut), are finding their childhood-sweethearts passion cooling since saying “I do” at the altar. Susan’s father (Gig Young) burns the candle at both ends between his marriage to Susan’s mom (Cloris Leachman) and his affair with the latter’s frantic sister (Anne Jackson). Susan’s own sister (Anne Meara) has to coax tenderness from her macho husband (Harry Guardino) while going toe-to-toe with him over gender-based power struggles. Most complex and rewarding is a story thread involving Mike’s parents (Bea Arthur, Richard S. Castellano), who initially appear confused over Ritchie’s estrangement from Joan, although they are later revealed to be far more insightful about love and destiny. Veteran television writer Cy Howard made his directorial debut here, keeping the visuals tight on the rat-a-tat-chatty characters, an approach that also captures instances when human defenses slip and true hearts are revealed. Extras include audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin. Recommended. (T. Keogh)