California is a city on the west coast of America. Its full of sand, sea, sunshine, and frolics. Plus to some, it comes across like paradise with a lobotomy. Moreover, this is also the lavish location where a number of visitors visit, spending there time here in the only way they know how. Here, take a look at this...
FROM NEW YORK: Middle-aged intellect, Hannah Warren (Jane Fonda) is on a mission. She has come to California to retrieve from her ex-husband, Bill (Alan Alda), their cast away teenage daughter, Jenny. However, Bill is not the the type of man to fight with his ex-wife. Instead, he introduces her to his new life, whilst giving her free reign with their daughters future.
Obviously Hanna is somewhat skeptical with Bills stance. But still, that does not necessarily mean that the future needs to be the same.
FROM LONDON: British actress, Diana Barrie (Maggie Smith), if just full of nerves. You see, Diana has come to California with her husband, Sidney Cochran (Michael Caine), because she has been nominated for a Oscar, and she has to attend these proceedings to see if she has won. Plus of top of that, things do not seem to be as they appear on the home-front either.
OK, so what could that be you may ask? Well, these things aired later that same night, when Diana is forlorn and fragile, and Sidney is buoyant and care free.
And I mean this in more ways than one.
FROM PHILADELPHIA: Marvin Michaels (Walter Matthau) has a big problem on his hand whilst he is on Californian soil to attend his Nephews bar mitzvah. No - it has nothing to do with his Nephew - directly. Instead, is all to do with his Nephews father, Marvin's brother Harry (Herb Edelman).
Well, Harry is a bit of a sex-starved type of a person all in all. Moreover, Harry arranges for Marvin to spend the night with a prostitute, after he gets him pissed whilst bar-hopping.
Pretty bad, right? No - that ain't bad. Whats bad is when Marvin wakes up with following day in his bed with the prostitute still by his side, and his wife, Millie (Elaine May), knocking at the door.
FROM CHICAGO: Doctor's, Chauncey Gump and Willis Panama (Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby), thought that it would be a good idea to spend their vacation together, in California with their respective wives.
Whoops! Bad idea. They have trouble with their hire car. They can never seem to agree on where to eat. The hotel they are staying at has made a mistake with their reservations. And then their is tennis.
Yes - I said tennis. Because after this 'friendly sporting event', you can safely say that things will not be very friendly anymore.
In my most humble opinion, 'California Suite' is a great film. No – better than ‘great’ – it is fantastic. It has an all-star cast. It's full of all-star stories. And it is directed in an all-star way. OK, so you are most probably wondering to yourself why I like this film so much, right? What makes it so great for me to praise it so. Simple really – it is a character driven comedy with a lot of emotion. Granted, on the one hand, it is a fractured film that tells’ four individual tales. But on the other hand, each of these parables are so compelling to watch, that you almost forget what type of a film it is.
My personal favorites out of the bunch, is the Michael Caine / Maggie Smith, and Jane Fonda / Alan Alda sections - because they both tell a rather different exploratory pretexts, yet still manage to translate them into a heart-felt and compelling narrative.
Please note, that is not to say that I disliked the two other tales at all – it is just that I found Walter Matthau to be slightly overplaying his part at tad too much at times, plus that the Cosby / Pryor segment, was marginally too one tone in key. Also, another thing that was additionally kind of disconcerting, was the actual structure of the piece. On first viewing, you expect that the individual stories would intertwine in places, to make it more of a grander arc – but this never happened.
In retrospect though, my presumption was foolhardy - because each tale holds up very well on it’s own, and they play out as if they where meant for a stage production. Moreover, this latter aspect made each tale more personable too - as I have to admit, I really started to care about the dilemmas that each of the characters found themselves in.
Here check out some of these facts:(1) This film was based on the original Broadway production of "California Suite" by Neil Simon. It opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in June 1976 - it lasted 445 performances. (2) In the film, Diana Barrie say that she wished that David Niven could accept her award on her behalf. But in the original stage play, she wished it was Michael Caine instead. (3) The majority of this movie was shot inside and on the grounds of the famous Beverly Hills Hotel. Today, the hotel's inside looks rather different, having been renovated for a whopping $150 million - plus with a no filming policy. (4) The Academy Award scenes with Maggie Smith and Michael Caine was filmed before the 50th Annual Academy Awards. And (5) Did you know that Maggie Smith won an Oscar for playing Diane Barrie in this film? For a character who loses one at the Academy Awards.
Ha! Overall, this is a brilliant late seventies movie, and in my opinion, one of the best stylistically, cinematically, and any other ‘tically’ you can care to mention. Great piece, and well worth the watch.
THE RATING: A+