John and Mary
(Fox Home Entertainment, 3.6.2007)
When people think of the great Hollywood filmmakers of the sixties and seventies, Peter Yates is rarely mentioned. Best known for directing crime films (Bullitt, The Friends of Eddie Coyle), comedies (For Pete's Sake, Mother, Jugs & Speed), and crime comedies (The Hot Rock, Eyewitness), Yates is actually far more versatile than his anti-prestige reputation would suggest. In fact, two of his best films (Breaking Away, The Dresser) were nominated for Best Picture Oscars. As a longtime Yates fan, I've frequently sought -- but never found -- John and Mary, Yates' romantic-comedy-drama starring Dustin Hoffman (circa The Graduate) and Mia Farrow (circa Rosemary's Baby). With all of these pieces in place, my hopes were high but, I'm sad to report, John and Mary does not live up to the imaginary hype.
More Barefoot in the Park than Carnal Knowledge, the film awkwardly follows the title characters on the day after their first sexual encounter. With a jumbled, unfocussed structure reminiscent of Clint Eastwood's recent misfire, Flags of Our Fathers, the film drifts from flashbacks to the present, substituting generic backstory for character development and narrative momentum. Like any number of clumsy theatre-to-film adaptations -- though John and Mary was adapted from a novel -- the film is overly passive and devoid of urgency.
Yates seems to be attempting an Americanized version of the French romances by hit-and-miss auteurs like Claude Lelouch, but he should have found a better role model. Crippled by an obvious, clunky script by John Mortimer, the film relies far too heavily on generalizations and functional, on-the-nose dialogue. Still, Yates's capable hand is evident in the widescreen compositions, the performances by Hoffman and Farrow are engaging, and there are several nice, lively sixties flourishes. If only someone had put some effort into the script.
In addition to an excellent anamorphic transfer, this disc features the film's theatrical trailer and three photo galleries. -- Jonathan Doyle