George Roy Hill Vincent Canby - Essay

Vincent Canby

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Paris in the spring. A beautiful, brilliant, American student named Lauren meets and falls in love with Daniel, who is French and as brilliant as Lauren. They both read [Martin] Heidegger and share a fondness for American films, especially those, like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting," that were directed by George Roy Hill. Though they act as if they were sophisticated, they are naïve at heart. When Daniel takes Lauren to see her first porn film, she runs out in tears. She hadn't expected it to be "like that." "That," says Daniel, "isn't love."…

Lauren and Daniel are, I think, meant to be comic and appealing in their mixture of innocence and worldliness. Yet Mr. Hill's "A Little Romance" … recalls most vividly the arch manner in which the Our Gang comedies worked—by having their child actors ape not the behavior of children but of grownups.

"A Little Romance" is a movie that seems to have melted the minds of everyone of any stature connected with it. Fifteen years ago, Mr. Hill made one of his first big splashes in movies with that still-charming comedy, "The World of Henry Orient," after which he went on to do "Butch Cassidy," "The Sting," "Slaughterhouse Five" and "The Great Waldo Pepper." That's an impressive record in terms of art and commerce. Yet "A Little Romance" is so ponderous it seems almost mean spirited. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie about boorish American tourists and felt sorry for the tourists—which is one of Mr. Hill's achievements here.

I'm sure nothing mean-spirited was intended, but such is the film's effect. This may be the main hazard when one sets out to make a film so relentlessly sweet-tempered that it winds up—like Pollyanna—alienating everyone not similarly affected.

Vincent Canby, "Movie: George Roy Hill Offers 'A Little Romance'," in The New York Times (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 27, 1979, p. C16.