Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Butterflies Are Free

TCM has a month-long programming feature this month called The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film. Every Tuesday night in October, TCM will be showing movies that have characters facing various disabilities, with the movies presented in conjunction with some disability "activist". The movies don't seem to be grouped thematically, with tonight's lineup containing a woman in a wheelchair (Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember at 8:00 PM) followed by two movies with blind characters. It's the second of those films, Butterflies are Free, that I'd like to blog about today. It's airing overnight at 12:15 AM.

Goldie Hawn stars as Jill, a bohemian hippie-type wannabe actress who's living in an apartment in San Francisco. She's dressed in just her undies in her kitchen, which is where she spots the young man in the next apartment on his terrace, apparently watching her like some sort of pervert. So, she goes over to his apartment since he's just next door, and strikes up a conversation with him. Jill finds that Don (Eddie Albert Jr.) is a nice guy. But she also notices that when she takes his ash tray and moves it, he doesn't notice, letting the ashes fall on the table. It's only then that Don tells Jill that he's blind. This is Don's first time living away from home, and he's determined to show everybody that he can be independent. That especially includes his mother, who he feels has been overprotective of him and who definitely doesn't want him living in this sort of apartment in the big city.

Jill begins to fall in love with Don, although at first we wonder whether there's any pity involved, pity being the last thing Don wants from everybody. Still, Jill and Don seem to be getting along fine, unblocking the door between their apartments and even sharing a bed. And then one morning Jill walks into Don's apartment wearing just her undies to make breakfast, and learns that Don's mother (Eileen Heckart) has shown up. What a way to meet mother! Mom isn't particularly happy wirh the arrangement, in no small part because she sees Jill and thinks Jill is going to be too flighty for Don, giving him up when the going gets rough. At least, that's part of the excuse; she's probably got her own issues of being unable to see her son as an independent man. But the concerns about Jill are reasonable, especially since she also seems to have her eye on the director of the play in which she wants a big part. Can love conquer all?

Butterflies Are Free is based on a stage play, which should be obvious from watching the movie. There's a paucity of sets, with most of the movie being set in Jill's and Don's apartments apart from one scene of the two going clothes shopping. But don't let that deter you from watching this movie. Goldie Hawn doesn't get the credit she deserves, despite being an Oscar-winner for Cactus Flower a few years earlier. (To be fair, Ingrid Bergman was just as deserving of an Oscar in Cactus Flower, which may be part of why Hawn gets overlooked.) Hawn does an excellent job here, as in fact do all three of the principals. Heckart got the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, making a character we're supposed to root against seem eminently plausible, if not quite sympathetic. (That's not her fault; the script wants it that way.)

Butterflies Are Free is available on DVD.

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