The Out-of-Towners (1970)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Out-of-Towners</strong> (1970)

(In French, On Cable TV, December 2018) Considering the almost endless amount of trouble that New York City experienced between (roughly) 1965 and 1995, there would be something almost prescient in the urban hellscape portrait that 1970’s The Out-of-Towners gives to NYC. Except that most of the terrible things in the film were inspired by real-life events of the late 1960s—strikes, mountains of garbage, urban decay, rising crime rates, exploding manholes and so on. In that dystopian vision of Big Cities step in a couple of Midwesterners considering a job offer. The nightmarish events of the film do much to dissuade them, but not before propelling an entire film’s worth of humiliations and disastrous setbacks. Nothing goes right for those travellers as their luggage is lost, their hotel reservations cancelled, they experience dental emergencies, get mugged and other indignities. It’s also raining, of course. Jack Lemmon is not bad as the target of those humiliations, accompanied by the somewhat blander Sandy Dennis and his much more stoic wife. Part of The Out-of-Towners are amusing, many feel similar and the overall effect is a bit tiresome as there is nary a respite and a definite limit to the amount of misery that even comic characters should experience –screenwriter Neil Simon may have overplayed his hand here. I strongly suspect that film influenced a lot of attitudes toward big cities in the following years. It does work as a time capsule of a miserable era in NYC history, but as a comedy it’s hit-and-miss.

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