A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
“Just Tell Me What You Want” occupies a world most of us have fantasies about, the world of an incredibly powerful, self-made business tycoon. It’s a world that’s not new in the movies, but not often is it seen as sharply as in this film, which, amazingly, leaves us feeling fairly affectionate about the people involved: This is a film that could have just been high-class, soft-core trash, but it sneaks in a couple of fascinating characters and makes them real.
They are Max Herschel (Alan King), investor, art collector, husband, lover, overgrown baby, and Bones Burton (Ali MacGraw), his mistress, who’s in television production. She’s also his prize creation; they met, we gather, 13 years ago when she was a teenager, and Max has educated her, stage-managed her career, doted on her ever since.
But now there’s a crisis: Max has purchased a near-bankrupt studio, and wants to plunder it for its film library and then sell the real estate to make a sports stadium. But Bones wants to try to turn the studio around.
He can’t quite see his protégé succeeding on her own. But they have other problems, too. Bones, who has just had another abortion and isn’t getting any younger, wants to get married. But Max is still married, and supports his deranged wife (Dina Merrill) in a series of expensive private institutions. He also cheats on both his wife and his mistress.