Wednesday, August 07, 2013

And Then There Are Marriages

1973's GROUP MARRIAGE is among the lesser efforts of pioneering director Stephanie Rothman, who also made drive-in favorites like TERMINAL ISLAND, THE VELVET VAMPIRE, and THE STUDENT NURSES. This progressive romantic comedy puts three attractive couples into an unusual living arrangement. Car rental agent Chris (Aimee Eccles) and bumper sticker magnate Sander (Solomon Sturges), probation officer Dennis (Jeff Pomerantz) and decorator Jan (Victoria Vetri), and lifeguard Phil (Zack Taylor) and his ex-wife’s attorney Elaine (Claudia Jennings) move into a house together and share everything. As you can imagine, complications ensue, but nobody gets too hurt.

Written by Richard Walters and given a polish (or two) by Rothman and her producer/husband Charles S. Swartz, GROUP MARRIAGE is an exploitation spin on BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (marvel at the way they incorporate a trailer-friendly exploding car into the plot). While it lacks that film’s wit, its cornball jokes and attractive cast make GROUP MARRIAGE a painless romp that doesn’t take its subject matter too lightly. Rothman takes care to express the complicated relationships with sensitivity, and the requisite nudity and sex scenes are performed with taste.

Unfortunately, the acting is just so-so with Jennings and Sturges (also in Rothman’s next film, THE WORKING GIRLS) doing the best work. Rothman’s liberal casting of Eccles, the rare Asian actress to headline a film (then and now), pays off because her wooden performance is counterbalanced by her camera-ready confidence (watch as Rothman holds on Eccles’ face while the other cast members discuss Chris’ pregnancy). The score by Michael Andres, who also did Rothman’s THE WORKING GIRLS and TERMINAL ISLAND, is pleasant and features doses of a John Sebastian original song.

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