Judge Brett Cullum has unearthed a rare cinematic fossil of the '70s—a romantic comedy for guys!
A love story for guys who cheat on their wives.
Paul Mazursky is a director who blazed dramatic new territory for adult romantic comedies by making them both scandalous and smart. Take a look at 1969's Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and you'll see he redefined the genre by taking the "free love" of the '60s and marrying it to suburbia for a searing portrait of the modern American couple. While his movies contain funny moments, the drama of people seeking to redefine the meaning of marriage turns his films into something more meaty. You have to chew on the situations, because he offers intelligent moral dilemmas as well as moments where you giggle. Blume in Love finds Mazursky at the height of his popularity, and teams him with the male embodiment of the '70s—George Segal (Fun With Dick and Jane). Warner Bros. releases the film on DVD with little fanfare or extras, but it's nice to see Blume in Love resurface. The only question is will three decades hopelessly date the film?
Facts of the Case
Beverly Hills divorce attorney Stephen Blume (Segal) is in love with his wife Nina (Susan Anspach, Gas); however there's one hitch, they are no longer married. Blume had an affair with his secretary, and Nina left him swiftly and silently. Months and even years later Stephen Blume will do anything he can to get her back and make-up for his mistakes. He even befriends his wife's new boyfriend (Kris Kristofferson, Blade) to show how progressive he has become. Or is this all just masking how possessive he has become?
Paul Mazursky makes smart films, and Blume in Love has sterling moments that mix emotions in an intelligent way. The characters are complex portraits of people, and they act genuinely if not always logically. The story has decidedly dark turns, but it's definitely not easy to anticipate what people are going to say and do next. There's the beauty of the film—you haven't seen many comedies where people are allowed to be realistically flawed. While this commitment to reality undoes the movie for today's audiences in one offensive sequence, it is important to realize how much progress has been made between men and women since Blume in Love was produced. If you can get over a scene here and there, there's an amazing discovery waiting for you.
The cast is a real gem, and a large reason to check out Blume in Love. George Segal makes us like Stephen Blume through relentless charm and optimism. Even though his character is technically a stalker (and worse), we begrudgingly warm up to him. The film hinges on his performance which requires the actor to perform in every scene, and Segal is up to the challenge of keeping the audience interested in his singular quest to get his wife back. Susan Anspach makes Nina a complex lady who struggles with Blume's materialism versus her sense of social responsibility and self-awareness. The wife becomes her own person, and ultimately demands the men around her to agree to her terms. She only concedes one time, but we never lose respect for her. Kris Kristofferson plays a bearded drifter love interest for Nina, and does so with a goofy likable charm that makes everyone fall in love with him despite the fact he is stoned most of the time. Shelley Winters (The Poseidon Adventure) appears in a quick role as one of Blume's histrionic divorce clients, and Shelley Morrison (Rosario from Will and Grace) also has a "blink and you'll miss it" role in a welfare office. Perhaps the most striking and memorable performance is from Marsha Mason (The Goodbye Girl) who plays a sexy friend to both Blume and Nina. It's easy to see why Neil Simon fell for her at first sight. She's brilliantly funny and intensely hot in that peculiar '70s way.
Blume in Love is remarkable for what it achieves in the area of redefining what marriage means. The film makes an interesting argument about how two people manage their relationship expectations, and how these perceptions can lead to a breakdown between husband and wife. Blume's fatal flaw is his own ego which makes him see his wife as a possession, and it's only after she leaves him that he realizes what he's lost. Even more remarkable, Mazursky has crafted a romantic comedy for guys. The bonding between Segal, the ladies, and Kristofferson are all seen from a male point of view. This is a unique film that will have more of an impact on males than females.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is one scene at the climax of the movie that will kill Blume in Love for most people, and rightfully so. It brutally depicts an act of violence against a woman that is not handled delicately or with any amount of respect, and the act taints our view of George Segal's character. The only saving grace is Kris Kristofferson's reaction. More than hair and fashions, the attitude about the event mires Blume in Love in the '70s to a hopeless degree. Thank God the world has moved on, because it's disturbing women were ever thought of like this. But that's part of what Paul Mazursky does well—court controversy and make us think. The unfortunate thing is in Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice we can still giggle at the sexual experimentation of "swinging," but in Blume in Love we cringe and wince at the dated attitudes towards women. If you're touchy about women's rights this may not be a nostalgia trip you'll enjoy.
There's nothing wrong with the DVD, but they miss the chance to do something right. Warner Bros. provides a great transfer for Blume in Love, and the feature looks significantly better than what the trailer has degenerated to. A mono soundtrack retains the original presentation without pops or hisses. The only extra to be found is a spoiler ridden theatrical trailer best saved for after viewing the film. The problem with making this a bare bones release is the film requires justification and meditation on what it means in today's world. George Segal is still out there, as are most of the actors featured, and it would be great to hear how they regard the film years later. I'm sure Paul Mazursky would love a chance to defend his screenplay, but no such luck. The movie begs for something more than a solid technical arrival on a digital disc.
Blume in Love is a smart comedy, filled with great performances, and a rare find on DVD—an intelligent compelling romantic comedy built for guys. Director Paul Mazursky crafts an intensely intimate story, and hands it over to George Segal who delivers a deftly paced performance. The whole production hums along nicely (with excellent '70s fashion provided by Joel Schumacher on costume design), until it's undermined by one dated scene. The sequence is patently offensive in today's moral climate, as it unforgivably objectifies women. When taken in context of the film it makes sense, but will come off distasteful and may easily turn off an audience who previously found the story engaging. Extras could have allowed an intelligent discussion, but instead the release is bare bones without any support. You'll have to make your own judgment on Blume in Love minus help from the participants who could clarify the decision.
Guilty of being a smart, insightful, romantic comedy with a single scene that undermines and dates the film's attitude about women. Blume in Love is a charismatic guy in a leisure suit, attractive but hopelessly dated. Despite the flaws, Blume in Love remains an interesting meditation on modern marriage.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Original Theatrical Trailer
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