Review: Cactus Flower (1969)

Cactus Flower


Gene Saks
I.A.L. Diamond (Play: Abe Burrows; Play “Fleur de cactus”: Pierre Barillet & Jean-Pierre Gredy)
103 min.
Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn, Jack Weston, Rick Lenz, Vito Scotti, Irene Hervey, Eve Bruce
MPAA Rating

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Source Material

It’s a semi-entertaining film comedy in significant need of a better director and writer to shape the characters and events less broadly. The story revolves around a single dentist who tells his “mistress” that he’s married in order to feel her out as a suitable partner. His head nurse helps keep him straight, but as she gets further involved in the plot, her feelings for the boss develop into a wedge between them. Meanwhile, the young woman begins to develop feelings for the beatnik next door.

Walter Matthau plays the dentist, Ingrid Bergman appears his nurse, Goldie Hawn (in her first major big screen role) is the young mistress, and Rick Lenz is her carefree writer neighbor. Bergman is the highlight of the film with her stern countenance and strict mien that eventually melts into liberated emotion. Matthau and Lenz are fine, but not exceptional. And Hawn is really in fine form. It’s not a great performance, but it’s engaging enough to make the film feel more energetic.

The film lifts the mood, pacing and comic elements from a number of films like The Apartment and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but never manages to feel like a unique entity. Many of the scenes feel a bit forced and the situations a bit too carefully plotted, a remnant of the stage play on which the film is based, but its a frequently amusing film with a conclusion as predictable as any you’ve ever seen, but which is suitably reasonable and believable.
Review Written
August 2, 2010

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