Saturday, August 11, 2012

Plaza Suite (1972) - Great New York Atmosphere

A very sophisticated film, "Plaza Suite" is just a little precious.  Really only interesting to fans of Walter Matthau now, or perhaps of playwright Neil Simon, but it does have some amusing moments.  Still, very dated and a lot of it feels staged and forced.

Even though he really hit it big only about a decade before, Walter Matthau was an old pro by 1971, taking a wide variety of roles that stretched his talents and demonstrated a phenomenal range. "Plaza Suite" suited the bill nicely in that regard. He gets to play three separate roles set within the same set but with different co-stars - how much like an actor's studio can you get? That he pulls it off brilliantly is almost a given, the man knew how to act. Everyone else in the cast, even the ones that also were old pros and had sharpened their roles in the successful stage play (which Matthau didn't), pale beside Matthau. Now, that's a movie star.

So, there are three vignettes set in a particular suite at the New York Plaza Hotel (the Plaza is perhaps the premiere hotel in the City, if not the world). Matthau and company emote and do their thing. The details aren't really significant, you either like that kind of drawing room comedy or you don't. I found it enjoyable, if a bit tedious here and there because one or two of the characters, such as Maureen Stapleton's Karen Nash in the opening scene, did not ring true to me. Also, the way the final scene was resolved was so dated and clichéd, even if humorous, and the music at times was on early '70s overload.... But I'm a big Matthau fan, and he overcomes everything, especially when he lets loose in the last sketch.

The real weakness of the film is that it plays too much like a stage play. But, that's where it came from. Take it for what it is. Oh, and despite what one of the characters claims, the Plaza never was in danger of being demolished. That section of NYC looks almost exactly the same today as it did then.

Some classic Matthau, some nice visuals of NYC, well, that's a good couple of hours to spend if you ask me.

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