There's a lot to be said for blunt, literate dialogue between two characters--something more common to plays, books, and high-caliber TV dramas than today's big-studio releases. Equally refreshing are movie romances minus the pinches of Hollywood fairy dust that often cloud the screen, especially if you prefer to see relationships with some semblance of real life. Functioning as a kind of companion piece to Billy Wilder's The Apartment, only less witty and with a narrower scope, Two for the Seesaw thrives in its carefully observed portrayal of two lost souls learning to trust each other in 1962 New York.
|On location in NYC|
Jerry meanwhile has received more than his share of handouts in life. He immediately recognizes Gittel's propensity for charity and decides that what will save them both is if he learns to give and she to receive. But she can see him just as clearly, and never hesitates to call him out on his true motivations. The emotional wrangling between Mitchum's older, educated lawyer and MacLaine's disarmingly candid New Yorker is handled with enough humor, frankness, and convincing shades of gray to keep you invested in both.
Adapted from a 1958 Broadway play by William Gibson, Two for the Seesaw is effectively opened up for the big screen and naturally remains a bit talky by today's standards. But when the talk and characters are as well realized as they are here, such dialogue is like a six-course meal to the starved gourmand. There are only a few dated elements to distract the modern viewer--Andre Previn's occasionally overemphatic score, MacLaine's broad New York accent and inconsistent wigs--but there's so much that feels right, these are easily forgiven.
Unlike the Neil Simon comedies that would soon proliferate on stage and screen, the conflicts shared by these lovers searching for common ground feel properly rooted--each defeat humbling, every victory earned. There's nothing flip or coy about it. Yet for all the realism and clash of hearts, this is no hysterical soaper or gloomy downer (no George and Martha, these two). You're rooting for them all the way--for these flawed individuals with their failed lives who recognize in each other the need for a second chance. Even until the very end, you're not sure they can help each other find it.
NOTE: This title expired from Netflix Instant on 5/1/13. If you're interested in purchasing the DVD, please consider using the link below to support this site.