Luv (1967) - Did it live up to the poster?

March 10, 2020

I find myself seeking out movies based on poster art fairly frequently. A fun color scheme or some Bob Peak illustrations will catch my eye and the next thing I know I've got my hands on the DVD of a movie that I know absolutely nothing about, except that whoever designed the poster did a pretty great job.

I thought it might be fun to turn these discoveries into a series here! I'm calling it "Did it live up to the poster?" I'll lay out what I expect from the movie based on the poster, and then I'll follow up with whether or not the film actually lived up to my expectations. First up is Luv (1967) starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, and Elaine May.

I came across this while browsing for a new poster for my office and fell head over heels in love (in luv?) with the color scheme.  I'll be honest here- the poster was $2.99 and I went ahead and bought it without seeing the movie. I'm a sucker for pink and an even bigger sucker for pink-and-red. Couple that with a heart, some groovy lettering, and flowers and I'm sold. I was all in way before I even noticed that all-star roster of actors. Now let's just hope that I like Luv enough to warrant hanging it up on my wall!

Here's what I'm expecting, based entirely on the poster and the brief synopsis I read on letterboxd: An offbeat comedy, maybe similar to What's Up, Doc? (1972). I cannot figure out why this movie is coming to mind, but I'm picturing a Sweet November (1968) vibe, but obviously a much lighter subject. I feel like it's going to be a movie whose poster is way brighter and more colorful than the actual movie. I'll be pleasantly surprised if it's more technicolor than I'm anticipating, but I'm so often let down by colorful posters promoting very muted movies that I'm not getting my hopes up in that regard. I think, based on the fact that it was a Broadway play, it'll be dialogue-heavy and the humor will be found in clever turns-of-phrase rather than slapstick. I think it'll be geared towards over-thirties but it'll have some element in it that randomly features hippies. I think it'll have a happy ending.

Okay! I'll be back in 95 minutes to let you know how I liked it!

Alright. I'm back! First I'll address whether or not my assumptions were correct. I was right that the movie wasn't really as colorful as the poster (although few movies not directed by Jacques Demy ever are!) but it also wasn't really as desaturated as I thought it would be. Most of the color came from the women's outfits, bright rain gear, and a surprising pink-shirt-red-tie combo that Jack Lemmon donned. It has a very similar pace to What's Up, Doc? (although a bit slower in some parts, whereas WUD is pretty consistently paced from start to finish.) It was definitely dialogue heavy, but it also included a ton of unexpected slapstick. Jack Lemmon jumped up onto a ceiling rafter to avoid a dog, two characters dangled precariously from the side of a loading dock in a New York harbor, and one character accidentally gets caught on top of an elevator that keeps landing between floors. It was geared at an older audience, but it did not feature any random hippies. As for that happy ending... I think it depends on how you look at it.

Peter Falk plays a man who wants to hand off his wife to an old friend so that he can marry his mistress instead. He tells Jack Lemmon's character, "I'm more in love today than on the day I got married... but my wife she won't give me a divorce." This arrangement is a welcome one for Elaine May, who plays Falk's wife, since she's been keeping a weekly chart that shows her husband's declining interest in the bedroom. Sensing that she can finally find romance again with Jack Lemmon, she agrees to a divorce with Falk and hops right into another loveless marriage with Lemmon. The entire film was worth it just for the last 30 minutes or so, when Falk and May realize that they should get back together and try to pawn their current spouses off on each other!

I really enjoyed this movie, although I think I would have liked it a lot more if Jack Lemmon had toned down his character a bit. He affected a very strong accent (Brooklyn maybe? I'm not 100% sure what he was going for) that's kind of distracting, and every movement, every line uttered, is excessively over the top. I personally prefer Jack Lemmon dialed down a bit, especially when the other characters in the movie all seem to be playing at a lower volume than he is. Elaine May and Peter Falk were *chefs kiss* perfection here. There is one scene early on in the film when Falk is trying to pretty her up to meet Lemmon for the first time -- applying lipstick and teasing her hair -- and their chemistry is so natural that it made me wish they had been a regular screen team. They both have a distinct presence and unique mannerisms that seem authentic, not like they're doing a bit.

Elaine May is one of those performers who takes normal words and turns them into works of art -- her unique pronunciation of the word "tremors" filled me with glee. I also loved the way that Falk describes May to Lemmon, "She's an exceptional woman. She has a photographic memory. And she paints. And she makes charts. And she plays the guitar. And Harry, she reads. Books I've never heard of. With hard covers." And when Lemmon and May go on their honeymoon to Niagara Falls they take turns one-upping each other to see how much they love each other. Lemmon tears off part of May's dress and says "do you still love me?!" then May casually whips out a pair of scissors and slices his suspenders. "Do you still love me now??" Lemmon tosses her fur coat into the falls. "How about now??" It was an incredibly cute and well executed display of affection, and one of the most fun parts of the film.

So. Does this live up to the poster? Yes, I think it does. It was a very fun movie, light and silly and strange. Elaine May and Peter Falk were an absolute delight to watch and I think I would definitely revisit this one again. And thank god, because I really wanted to hang this poster up on my wall! :)


Jess said...

I’d love to read your "Did it live up to the poster?" series. What a great idea!

Luv sounds like a cute, fun movie. I hope to watch it one day. :)

Evelynrocks said...

I concur -- what a wonderful concept! I can't wait to read more, since I have a fairly expensive interest in movie posters. Being bit of a Jack Lemmon fan, I too like him best when he's the mildly muted character, as in The Fortune Cookie, to the over-the-top card that he played on occasion. Peter Falk hasn't really never wow'ed me before, so I definitely should give this a look. Thanks!