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Monday, 24 May 2010

Golden girl (Cactus Flower)

It's her eyes. They are round, absolutely round. And, emote impeccably. When she's thrilled, they balloon with happiness, when she's sad, they brim over with tears. No matter what, it's difficult to take your eyes off her sparkling blue peepers, so full of excitement and emotion. Couple that with her lyrically cute voice and an petite elfin frame with a bob of bright golden hair, and you have the stunner called Goldie Hawn.
As the 21-year-old Toni Simmons in Gene Saks' 1969 comedy, Cactus Flower, Hawn is a revelation. She just has to look, and you melt. Such is the magic of her persona, uncanny, wierd but utterly enjoyable. In her first major film role she steals the thunder away from the other mighty artists, namely Walter Matthau and yes, the veteran Ingrid Bergman.
In a role that is as comical as unpredictable, Hawn just glitters and walks away with an Oscar. She manages to establish herself as an actress perfect for light, frothy, comic roles...
Cactus Flower is an irreverantly rollicking comedy. And, a rib-tickling one at that. Dr Julian Winston (Walter Matthau) is a popular dentist having a raging affair with Toni Simmons, who is way younger than him. A philanderer and commitment-phobic, Julian lies to Toni that he already has a wife and three children. One evening, Toni is devastated because Julian can't keep a dinner engagement, and shoots off a letter to him that she is going to commit suicide. She posts the letter and walks back into her apartment and tries to gas herself. But, Igor Sullivan (Rick Lenz) interferes on the nick of time and rescues her. Soon, Toni, in a dazed state, asks Igor to call Julian's clinic to tell him that she indeed, is still alive!!! But, the letter reaches Julian and he rushes to Toni's house, to find Toni talking to a towel-clad attractive Igor!!! What follows is a riot of hilarious incidents, a melee of misunderstandings and a series of gags...
Julian's nurse-cum-secretary is Stephanie Dickinson (Ingrid Bergman). She handles everything for the busy dentist, his appointments, his lunches and his errands, too. So, when Julian has to present a wife before Toni, he instantly thinks of Stephanie. He gulls her into a cocktail date and tries to push his case before her. The abiding nurse that she is, Stephanie though initially extremely miffed at the thought of posing as Julian's wife before his girlfriend, she secretly relishes the fact and goes to meet Toni at her workplace. What we have here is a crackling chemistry between Bergman's experience and Hawn's wit. Both of them are simply superb together. Especially when Toni goes, "And what about your children?" Stephanie is flummoxed enough to say, "So, he said we have three children???" In splits, we are here!!! Then Toni watches Stephanie walk away with two children, she is overwhelmed and wistful. She purses her rosebud lips and licks off one tiny tear that travels down her soft eyes...simply marvellous...Ha ha!!
Then you have those crazy one-liners to bolster the already tight plot. They are completely laughter inducing. When Julian promises to Toni that he will divorce his wife, Toni, the mellow soul that she is, says, "What about your children?" And Julian goes, "Ah, I'll divorce them, too." Awesome!!
If Toni is the spunky girl with a soft heart and superb comic timing, Stephanie is the spunky woman. Didn't know Bergman had a flair for comedy. When I saw her in those earlier romantic roles, I never could imagine that she could tickle your funny bone with this effect. Stephanie has a mind of her own, loves and cares for Julian but takes a wee bit time to realise that. It's funny when she tries to project herself as any other normal woman who is not uptight, when she says, "True... I am no sex-goddess, but I have not spent my life in a tree!"
Bergman here pales in the looks department to Hawn. She's put on weight, looks older and has lost the sheen from her Casablanca days. But she makes up for that as the fast-talking nurse who is in command of every situation. Even when she is flirting with Igor at the club, she is enjoying herself. Even when she is with Harvey, Julian's madcap friend, she knows what she is getting into...Bergman is one artist who never ceases to surprise unique is her range...
Matthau is at the recieving end of two fiesty women in Cactus Flower. And, he is uproariously funny. He has to dexterously handle a foolish sprightly girl on one hand, and a mature intelligent woman on the other. He looks appropriately hassled and runs from pillar to post to cover up loose ends. And, we have a good laugh at his expense, especially when he suffers from jealousy pangs because Toni is showing interest in Igor...
Cactus Flower is killingly funny and devoid of the slapstick humour that its Hindi rip-off contains. Yes, a certain Salman Khan-starrer called Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya is a direct copy from this comedy (which has also been adapted from a French play called Fleur de cactus). But, I'd recommend the Matthau-Bergman-Hawn joyride. For, why settle for a sorry second when you can have first-hand unadulterated fun...


  1. This is one of the first Hollywood films I remember watching - though, sadly, because it was so many years ago, I don't remember much of the plot except that it was very funny. Your review inspires me to order it and rewatch it ASAP. Thank you!

  2. @Dustedoff: Yes, yes just grab it asap and watch it. It guarantees splits and Goldie is a darling!!! Thanks for the comment :)

  3. Delightful post for a delightful film. Sparkling in innocence, Hawn, the heroine, leads a battery of fine actors in unsual roles. Add to that superb situational comedy and you have a two-hour laugh riot.
    Just for curiosity sake, what would the end result be if Woody Allen is asked to direct a remake of Cactus Flower?

  4. Really!!! What would it be like, I wonder??? Would Allen choose Hawn's daughter, Kate Hudson, for Toni's part?? But, would she be able to recreate the magic of her mom??? Is Allen listening??? :)

  5. I have never seen this film but after reading this I'm quite excited about watching it! I am highly impressed by your ability to draw in readers through your fantastic intros. You have completely changed my idea of Goldie Hawn since I haven't seen any of her movies when she was young!


  6. @Abhi: Ohhhhh...Goldie Hawn is a cracker of a mustust watch her films..especially her comedies...and this one just rolls!!! Thank you Abhi for liking my intros :)

  7. Though I have seen the remake in Hindi, I haven't seen the original one. And your review makes me want to see it so badly and ASAP.

  8. @Sunheriyaadein: Yes you must watch it asap. It is a cracker of a film with first class situational comedy. Goldie Hawn is a great find!!! Thanks for the comment :)

  9. .....unadulterated fun!!! truly agree :) your review....keep writing as we keep watching :)

  10. @Dimpy: sure will write...thanks for the comment!! :)

  11. what can i say bout goldie hawn. she never fails to mesmorise me. even in death becomes her and first wives club. her comic timing is so uncanny and unpredictable. especially wen she teams up with kurt russel or steve martin. and about her eyes i can only aankhon ki masti ke mastane hazaron hai...

  12. @Cancerian: You forgot to mention Bird on a Wire with Mel Gibson....she rocked!!!