Charles Grodin, Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase in Seems Like Old Times.
Seems Like Old Times is Neil Simon's attempt at writing a 1930s screwball comedy. It's fast paced and very funny in parts and features a likeable and talented trio of actors in the lead roles. With its limited cast and only a few locations, it almost has the feel of a play.
The always adorable Goldie Hawn stars as Glenda Parks. She's a public defender who picks up as many stray people as she does stray dogs. A soft touch, she ends up hiring many of the criminals she defends in court. Her husband is Ira Parks, a district attorney, played by Charles Grodin, an actor with a master's degree in the slow burn and the sarcastic turn of phrase. He's the straight man here, but he doesn't take a back seat to anyone.
Rounding out the trio is Chevy Chase as Nicholas Gardenia. Nicholas is Glenda's ex-husband. When the movie starts he is picked up by a couple of criminals and forced at gunpoint to help them rob a bank. After the robbers throw him out of a speeding car, Nicholas limps to Glenda's house since she is the one person he thinks can help him and also because he's still in love with her.
Against her better judgement, Glenda hides Nicholas, but keeps it a secret from Ira, which leads to some opening and closing of doors with Nicholas hiding under beds and other farcical and funny behavior.
Keeping Nicholas hidden until his innocence can be proven becomes even more important when the Governor comes to dinner and wants to talk about making Ira the state's Attorney General. This leads to one of the funniest scenes when due to a series of complications, Nicholas ends up serving dinner.
This was the second pairing of Chase and Hawn following 1978's Foul Play. The two have a great chemistry and should have made more movies together. They make a believable couple and play very nicely off of each other.
Along with the three stars, the maid Aurora, the chauffeur Chester and even the dogs manage to steal a few scenes.
Like all good screwball comedies the comedy builds here until its climax, which takes place as so many screwball comedies do, inside a courtroom. It's a funny culmination to all the hijinks that came before it and the movie should have ended here, or at least on the steps of the courthouse in the scene that follows, but instead there's an extra scene tacked on at the end that just smacks of a reshoot added following test audience reaction. It's a silly coincidental scene that should have been chopped off.
Screwball comedies are one of my favorite types of movies. Somewhere along the way they seem to have fallen out of fashion. While this one might never reach the heights of some of the truly classic screwball comedies of the past, it does come close many times.
Goldie Hawn in Seems like Old Times
Seems Like Old Times seems more like a throw away film than a real effort by all involved. Neil Simon's script seems far too amateurish for such a professional. A man is kidnapped and forced to rob a bank? While alone with the teller, he does not think to whisper to her what is going on and to push the alarm button. The guys are not going to stick around to kill him and risk arrest.
The cast is not much better. Chevy Chase does his usual slapstick routine, acting far more charming than he really is. Charles Grodin plays the one uptight character he has. Even Goldie Hawn spends the film merely relying on her adorable smile to get her through. The setup is a situational comedy that is stretched out for an hour and a half, with the stars doing little to liven things up.
Seems Like Old Times marked the end of Goldie Hawn's string of hits. She had just starred in her biggest hit, Private Benjamin. She would go on to make many more films but her career would be filled with more bombs than box office successes following this film.
Glenda represents the typical liberal attorney, defending minorities as if by virtue of their ethnicity alone they should be found innocent. She is however quite the bigot herself. After defending two young American Indians in court she offers them a job at a friends ranch. The men say that they can't ride horses, to which Glenda makes a double take and asks incredulously, "You can't?" Everyone who works for her is a minority, including a girl she admits is an illegal.
Goldie Hawn made some truly funny films, but this ain't one of them.
From top to bottom, Charles Grodin, Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase in Seems Like Old Times.
Eric, you let your disdain for liberals influence your opinion of this movie. Hawn's Glenda Parks is a walking cliche of the classic bleeding-heart defense attorney. The script actually pokes gentle fun at her idealistic, gullible attitudes and behavior. Her reaction to the Native American men saying they cannot ride horses is also meant to show her naivete.
Charles Grodin, as the more conservative Ira, is the voice of reason in the movie. He is shown as being incredibly indulgent of his wife's penchant for rehabilitating criminals and adopting stray dogs. At one point he asks Glenda (rhetorically), “When was the last time you thought anyone was guilty of anything?”
One thing that dates the story is the way most of the minorities are portrayed as stereotypes. This was quite common in comedies of the 1970s. Although Neil Simon attempts to balance this by including the Robert Guillaume character and his wife at the dinner party attended by the Governor of California. I love how Glenda mentions the seating arrangement. “Then we have boy, girl, boy, girl, Governor, girl!”
Seems Like Old Times has a classic screwball comedy set-up. It was inspired by the 1942 film The Talk of the Town with Cary Grant as an escaped convict competing with a stuffy professor played by Ronald Colman for schoolteacher Jean Arthur's affections.
In Foul Play Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase had great chemistry together. In Seems Like Old Times not so much. The problem is with the script, which paints Ira as too sympathetic while Nick is never fully developed. At no time did I feel that Glenda was still in love with Nick. She just enjoyed the sex they had. Seems Like Old Times can't make up its mind about which man Glenda should end up with. Ira is the obvious choice but the tacked on ending Scott mentioned spoils it.
Still there are plenty of laughs to be mined by the talented cast in this mildly successful bedroom farce.
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures (1980)