I love Gene Wilder. There are a number of movies that he made that I will treasure from my youth. This film was made and I first saw it as an adult, and that makes a difference. Some of the high spirited silliness that made up his earlier work just does not fit in an adult style comedy. There are all sorts of things wrong with the movie that stem from the original screen story it is based on but Wilder adapted the screenplay himself so he does have to take some of the fall. “The Woman in Red” is not as terrible as I remember, having seen it only once thirty years ago, but it is not good either.
This is a bedroom farce based on a French film and it co-stars Joseph Bologna. Does that sound familiar to you? If you read this blog you may have encountered “Blame it On Rio“, another French farce that co-starred Bologna. He basically plays the same character here only this time he is a peripheral cast member. Repeating a pairing from way back in January, in “The Lonely Guy“, are Charles Grodin and Judith Ivey. This appears to be the cast of actors that you want if you are making an adult comedy about mid-life crisis and it is 1984.
My admiration for Michael Caine is so immense that this awkward bit of unpleasant memory does not diminish it. The 1980s were the prime era of sex comedies featuring frequent nude shots of young women in order to bring in the audience. Of course that type of thing had been done before, but usually in a drive-in “B” picture that would remain obscure after it was out of the passion pits. This was a major release, starring well know adult actors, and it was advertised and marketed like any other straight comedy of the day. As it turns out, this was a remake of a French farce from the seventies, relocated from the beaches of the Riviera to Rio de Janeiro. Now I’m not a prude, and the marketing clearly worked at getting me in the theater, but the subject matter and execution make it less frothy and naughty and more creepy and sour.
Two middle aged men, played by Caine and Joseph Bologna, travel to Rio for a vacation and take their teen daughters with them. The mood of the city takes over and the next thing you know, Caine’s “Uncle Matthew” is having a fling with his best friends nubile daughter. If that sounds a little tacky, get ready to be impressed because there is more tackiness to come.