Tuesday, April 20, 2021

As much of an acquired taste as My Sharona

A few months back, TCM had a one-night spotlight of the films of director Richard Lester. One that I hadn't blogged about before is The Knack... and How to Get It. Recently, I finally got around to watching it, so now you get the post on it.

Michael Crawford (yes, the guy who'd do Phantom of the Opera in the 1980s) plays Colin, a schoolteacher living in a London house that he probably inherited, since there's no good way that he could afford a house like that otherwise. Indeed, he can't afford it, which is why he's renting out rooms to people like Tolen (Ray Brooks), who doesn't use his given name. Tolen has a string of women coming to his room one after the other while he makes love to them. Colin isn't thrilled with this, as he thinks he should be able to get women too. Perhaps Tolen can teach him.

There's another empty room to let in the house, and a la Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier, young Tom (Donal Donnelly) walks in through the window and decides on the spot to rent the room for himself. However, he doesn't like Colin's furniture, or the color of the walls, so Tom takes it upon himself to change these, blocking the front door with the furniture, among other things. Now, I don't understand why Colin would keep Tom around in a situation like this, but whatever. Don't pay attention to the plot.

Meanwhile, coming into London for the first time is Nancy (Rita Tushingham), looking for the YWCA probably because it's fun to stay there. Again, you'd think she'd have looked up the address of the YWCA before she left for London, and then figured out which bus to take to get there. Instead, she just randomly starts asking strangers, who probably shouldn't have any better idea where the YWCA is in such a big city. The movie keep going back and forth between Nancy's subplot and the three guys, but you know the two are going to converge eventually.

When Nancy meets up with the guys, Tolen immediately starts putting the moves on her although Colin thinks he should have first dibs, especially since it's his house and Tolen has enough women already. Tom has more sympathy for Colin than Tolen. The fact that you can probably guess which two are going to wind up together doesn't help.

There are a lot of problems with The Knack... and How to Get It, starting with the fact that the movie isn't really about the nominal plot. Instead, like The Bed-Sitting Room, it's more of an absurdist comedy. Richard Lester, who directed, had already made It's Trad, Dad! and A Hard Day's Night, which both play with our perceptions and in the case of the former, really break the fourth wall. But this time around, it doesn't work.

The plot holes, if you actually pay attention to the plot, don't help either. Nancy is unbelievably stupid, while Tolen is such a dick that you can't help but wonder why Colin didn't evict him long ago. Whole sections run on too long (even though the movie is only 84 minutes), the the humor isn't that funny.

But perhaps I'm not of the right generation to enjoy this one, and those who enjoy Mod London will. (On the other hand, I liked Georgy Girl and Bedazzled, for example.) So watch and judge for yourself.

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