Norman Lear Bosley Crowther - Essay

Bosley Crowther

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The satire, "Divorce American Style," screenplay by Norman Lear] is not as funny or trenchant as it tries very hard to be. Indeed, it is rather depressing, saddening and annoying, largely because it does labor to turn a solemn subject into a great big American-boob joke.

[A key reason for its weakness] is that [director] Mr. Yorkin and Mr. Lear do not establish any viable reason for their quarreling couple to become divorced. They simply ask us to accept the premise that [two people] … could be conned into separating, after 17 years of marriage, by a caricature of a marriage counselor and a couple of catty friends.

Sure, they may be a little rattled by too suddenly achieving affluence and too desperately trying to keep up with the other Joneses in a split-level section of Los Angeles. But the feeling one gets is that the authors simply wanted to pull these people apart so they could show the comical convulsions of a fellow trying to make out on what he has left after paying alimony to his divorced wife….

But the main trouble with this picture … is that it makes glib fun of something that doesn't fit the frisky mood of farce. (p. 30)

Bosley Crowther, in The New York Times Film Review (© 1967 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 20, 1967.