The Woman in Red makes delightful, if not entirely original, fun out of marital infidelity. An American remake of the popular French comedy Pardon mon Affaire, Woman stars the multitalented Gene Wilder as Teddy Pierce, a San Francisco man who falls in love with an achingly beautiful model named Charlotte (Kelly LeBrock). Normally a steady family man, Teddy turns clown as he chases Charlotte through a series of hilarious misunderstandings and psychological pratfalls. But his clumsy pursuit of sexual Nirvana hardly seems unusual in a society that the film portrays as obsessed with infidelity.
Woman is funny mainly because Wilder makes such an unlikely suitor. His baleful hound’s face and innocent blue eyes belong to a little boy whose body has grown mysteriously old. A master of the double take, he can bring down the house with a glance, as when he discovers his wife, Didi (Judith Ivey), absent-mindedly pointing a pistol at his
groin while he arranges a date with Charlotte on the phone. When Charlotte accidentally hears his wife’s name and asks “Who’s Didi?” his sputtering nonresponse seems to go on for eternity. At such moments Woman—which Wilder directed —delineates human frailty with a poignancy that elevates it well above the run of bedroom farces.
The actor’s inspired bumbling receives strong support from Gilda Radner, as the homely secretary who goes utterly to pieces when she mistakenly believes Teddy is also in love with her. But newcomer LeBrock is no match for the comic talent around her. An international modelling star, she possesses the kind of full-mouthed beauty that sends men walking into lamp posts, but her stiffness renders most of her confrontations with Wilder faintly embarrassing. However, that is as it should be. LeBrock is not playing a human being, just the eternal Aphrodite in the heart of Everyman. Teddy may make a fool of himself chasing her, but audiences will laugh throughout Woman in Red because they, too, will find her allure irresistible. -JOHN BEMROSE
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