Films

That touch of class is found, then lost

LOST AND FOUND Directed by Melvin Frank

Richard Corliss July 2 1979
Films

That touch of class is found, then lost

LOST AND FOUND Directed by Melvin Frank

Richard Corliss July 2 1979

That touch of class is found, then lost

Films

LOST AND FOUND Directed by Melvin Frank

From Tracy and Hepburn to Bob and Carol, movies have pursued the eccentric notion that married people can have exciting fun together—that a husband and wife are adventurers negotiating a minefield of disappointments, infidelity, boredom and high tempers; only the minefield is one not of space but of time, and it ends only when death do them part. Marriage, these days, is an exercise in absurdist heroism, and so is a film about an articulate, upscale, middle-aged couple in these days of teeny-bopper nostalgia and sci-fi sadism.

Lost and Found reunites the creative team that turned A Touch of Class into the comedy hit of 1973: actors George

Segal, Glenda Jackson and Paul Sorvino, writer-director Melvin Frank and co-author Jack Rose. Here, Segal is a newly widowed English professor, Jackson a newly divorced secretary. They

meet, fall in love, get married, fall out of love and finally—exhausted after all that falling—fall into each others’ arms. Jackson, with a face, voice and bearing that’s so intelligent it almost seems sexy, is again the witty, compassionate New Woman. And Segal’s manic, mangy charm brings a certain sneaky appeal to a character who spends much of his time climbing up an Ivy-League wall over the backs of his friends.

The mixture is as before: a little kissy-face, a little slappy-face, a few tears, a few bruises. In Lost and Found, though, the ingredients don’t quite gel. Melvin Frank has a fine track record as a comedy writer (Hope and Crosby’s funniest movie, Road to Utopia, and Danny Kaye’s most endearing vehicle, The Court Jester), but he hasn’t the directorial ability to bring off this uneasy blend of slapstick and satire. And there’s plenty of both. Segal is thrown out of a speeding car, tumbles down a ski slope, gets dragged around in a shower, and takes more pratfalls in 106 minutes than Buster Keaton did in his entire career. “The film’s subplot,” we learn from the production notes, is “a subject very close to Frank’s heart... a serious condition that exists in our society.” We’ll give you three guesses. The

SALT talks? The worldwide refugee problem? The identity of Margaret Trudeau’s latest disco partner? Wrong on all counts: it’s academic tenure for college teachers. When word of this subplot gets around, watch the fans line up.

Richard Corliss