So we're skipping ahead a little, because I am DETERMINED to film the Barbarella bracket even if it KILLS ME (which it very well might). In the meantime, take off all your clothes, get in bed, pull up some Turkish food, a glass of Scotch, and READ MY FUCKING BLOG.
HOLY ADORABLE JANE FONDA.
I am obviously already a fan of Jane. I've always thought she had truly underrated comedic timing, and this film showcases the hell out of it. People remember Young Jane for being sexy as hell - and don't get me wrong, she fucking was - but Young Jane was smart as a WHIP too. Neil Simon's language is quick, it's subtle, and it's tongue-in-cheek, so it's painfully apparent when the speaker isn't fully picking up the nuance. Jane played that balance like a goddamn world class violinist.
Minute 1:22 of this clip is when I knew that Jane Fonda was - as I'd suspected after all these years - the girl of my dreams.
I have to give the Janesploitation Award to the actual premise of the story: our stars are newlyweds, and while Redford Buttchin is bringing home the bacon, Jane Fonda is figuring out how to be a good housewife - filled with hilarious shenanigans like accidentally renting an apartment that's up 1500 flights of stairs, or inviting the casually rapey and racist portrayal of a foreign neighbor over for dinner without getting Hubby's permission first.
To be fair, the commentary seems to be more about how the two don't have as much in common as they thought they did - Jane is so carefree she doesn't notice the stairs; she has so much joie de vivre she overlooks the inherent rapiness of the neighbor - but it still comes across with a heavy-handed omnipotent eye roll, and you find yourself waiting for Robert Buttchin to give an Jim-Halpert-esque look to the camera as if to say, "Really? Really, Jane Fonda? ...Women."
But in the end, it's NOT Jane's free spirit (*cough* naivete *cough*) that sends them through the ringer, it's Robert Buttchin's smudgeness. Again, this is a bit of a cop-out because they're wildly overlooking the misogynistic expectations of husbands and wives of the era - Robert is cranky because Jane got an apartment without a bath, and he NEEDS TO HAVE HIS BATHS, JANE - but it was supposed to be a lighthearted comedy, and they were ultimately about as respectful and progressive as they could be. If Robert could only be less smudge, he'd realize that Jane loved the shit out of him, bath or no bath.
Not every movie in this series is going to be a #banger, but this one actually was. For the *most* part, it holds up the test of time, and I really can't say the same for the pre-1970s era of film.
I mean, just fucking LOOK AT JANE FONDA. Here she is, totally being sexploited, but she's making it her own.
Actually, you know what? I figured out what makes this movie different. Up until now, Jane's always been typecast as either 1) innocent, virginal, girl-next-door, or 2) a literal prostitute. This is the first role we've seen her in where she's a healthy dose of BOTH - you know, like actual real human women are. A little naive, but not clueless; sexy, but not a sex-worker (not that there's anything wrong with that, but also like Jesus at least portray them accurately). She's sassy, she's smart, and she's figuring it out. And she is so, so funny.
Comedic timing: 10/10
Physical comedy: 10/10
If Jane was fluent in the dialect of Neil Simon, it stands to say that her French could use a little work. I wanted to be proud of her in this - and I am proud of her for learning another language fluently and committing to act in it - but truthfully, her French is painfully American. As someone raised by bilingual parents (and Francophones at that), I am intimately aware of the years and years it takes to develop and cultivate a natural sounding accent. After over a decade of living in Europe, the best compliment my parents ever received was when Francophones assumed they were British! Sadly, I cannot say the same for Jane.
Actual footage of Jane Fonda learning French:
That being said, literally no one is paying one fuck of an attention to her accent in this, because ummmmmmmm have you seen her in this?? Brigitte Bardot may have been the first sex kitten, but Jane Fonda was a close second (SIDEBAR: DID ANYONE ELSE KNOW THAT "COUGAR" IS SHORT FOR "SEX KITTEN"??? THE TWO ARE RELATED?!?!?! DUH?!??!!)
Like with 99% of the movies I watch, I have one chief complaint: could've been a heck of a lot gayer.
But seriously, I think the premise is actually delightful, and in this golden era of Streaming Platform Original Movies, why not remake La Ronde? Vadim's 1964 version was a remake of Max Ophüls's production from 1950, and both stories are loosely based on the 1897 play Reigen by Arthur Schnitzler.
It's a simple concept, really:
1) A whore offers to sleep with a soldier in Paris for free, because he reminds her of an old lover
2) The soldier thinks he's too good for her, but now has a raging boner (??) so he goes off to seduce a sad but hot nerd at some party
3) She is basically raped at this party, and seeks to spread the nasty by boning her employer's virgin college-aged son (complete in a sexy French maid outfit, of course. Or, I guess since they're all in France, they just call it a sexy maid outfit?)
4) Now that he's been deflowered, the son is inspired to go on a banging spree of his own, and he finally seduces this hot married chick he's been pining over (Jane Fonda!)
5) Jane is so inspired by how great this kid is at boning (and it was only his second time!) that she decides to go home to her husband and sleep with him for a change, aww so sweet
6) Her previously blue-balled husband has had the off switches turned to on, and makes a pass at a hot seamstress. She declines his super flattering offer to be his mistress, because she's applying to be an Ivy League mistress to a moody writer who she's really hoping will write his next great hit about her
7) SPOILER ALERT the writer does NOT go for the costume designer, he goes for SURPRISE the actress
8) But the actress is only interested in young hot guys, particularly some Count dude
9) The Count bangs her, then goes on a banging spree across Paris
10) After a Frank-Gallagher-esque night of blacking out, the Count wakes up with CAN YOU GUESS WHO yep the same goddamn prostitute from the beginning.
The point is, this story could either: 1) be a VERY powerful PSA about how sexually transmitted diseases are spread, or... 2) be a VERY gay story. Seriously, keep it pretty much the same, but minus the SWERFs and the TERFs and make it like 1000% gayer. I'd watch the fuck out of that show.
La Ronde is the closest I think we'll ever get to seeing Jane ride by on her looks, and it's not necessarily her fault - that's literally just how the character is written. I also suspect a lot of the tongue-in-cheek subtleties of the script are lost in translation, because she's performing in another language.
Barefoot was, in some ways, a similar type of character - playing the fool, but always with a twinkle in the eye. In Barefoot it was "but sir, you know I'm only sixteen!" and in La Ronde it was "oh you didn't tell me there was a bed in here!" She's adorable, she's playful, she's sexy as can be.
...But isn't she just a little sexier when she's got some meat on her bones? I mean metaphorically, of course, we're in peak Bulimic Jane here, but Barefoot just has a few more bulbs in the tanning bed, a little more bark in her bite. And that's the Jane I want to see: Jane With Teeth.
The moral of the story is: be gayer, be drunker, be toothier.
And the winner is...