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The Last Married Couple in America

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Now here's an appallingly dimwitted comedy. It's about marriage, I guess, and about how so many people are getting divorced these days that if you find yourself still together after 20 years you can almost wonder if you're "The Last Married Couple in America." But the people in this movie seem so spaced out about why they're married or divorced that the real miracle is how they lace their shoes in the morning.

There's nothing more cloying than a film about "real" people in which the people talk like prisoners of a sitcom, and the plot is so painfully artificial that even the actors seem incredulous. But that's what we have here. The plot's so awkwardly put together we can almost overhear the story conferences on the sound track. The movie makes it necessary, for example, for the happily married couple to break up, and so they do, but there's no reason for it and we're never convinced that anything in this movie is inspired by any kind of authentic human motivation.

The last married couple of the title is played by George Segal and Natalie Wood. They live in one of those modest little $2 million Southern California homes where you can pack the kids off to the family wing and they'll hardly even know there's an orgy going on. He's a professional man of some sort, and she sculpts - which means that there is a block of stone in the movie and once or twice she takes a lick at it with a chisel.

All of their friends are getting divorced, we learn. And most of them seem headed for the further shores of sex. There's a hot-blooded divorcee (Valerie Harper) who's always hot to trot, and an old plumber friend (Dom DeLuise) who's married a hooker and becomes a porno movie star. And so on. Wood and Segal are bewildered by these salvos from the sexual revolution, until Segal succumbs to Valerie Harper's charms, they head for a motel together, and, wouldn't you know, it, he contracts VD.

The resulting scene in the doctor's office is about as embarrassing as you can imagine, but then this whole movie is embarrassing, maybe because it has a smarmy attitude toward sex that's just not convincing. To put it another way, what happens in this movie is a lot too kinky to be convincing, given the actors who are asked to involve themselves in it.

A comedy about the real hazards of marriage and divorce might have been very timely right now (and the presence of Natalie Wood reminds us of her last major movie appearance, in the similar but infinitely better "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice"). But this movie doesn't seem interested in real people with complicated problems. Instead, we get a sexual sideshow that culminates in an orgy in the living room, and of course the whole old tired cast of stock kinky characters is dragged in, including the macho biker in leather and the stripper with the backless dress. So what?

There is a sense in which Hollywood has just plain lost touch with life as it's really lived, and this movie is depressing evidence of that. The title gives us a promising premise: We'd be interested in a movie about a marriage that's survived and still works, especially if it gave us recognizable, plausible characters. But this movie just doesn't.

The sexual events in the film seem drummed up out of the letters columns of swinger magazines. The sets look like sample rooms in furniture stores. The characters don't live their lives, they survive sitcom plot checklists. This movie is almost a curiosity, it's so removed from the tones and rhythms of everyday life.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Film Credits

The Last Married Couple in America movie poster

The Last Married Couple in America (1980)

Rated R

103 minutes


Allan Arbus as Al Squib

Arlene Golonka as Sally Cooper

Natalie Wood as Mari Thomson

Richard Benjamin as Marv Cooper

Valerie Harper as Barbara

Dom DeLuise as Walter Holmes

George Segal as Jeff Thomson

Marolin Sokol as Alice Squib

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