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Wayback Wednesday: Barefoot in the Park (1967)

Cheers to Jane Fonda for shaping my entire world.

You guys!

I cannot believe that this is my 200th REVIEW!! When I first started this blog almost two years ago, I NEVER would have imagined that I’d be capable of writing this many reviews. Part of what keeps me going and makes running this blog such a fun experience is definitely my undying love for all things movie-related, but it’s also in large part thanks to all of you. Without your continued support, enthusiasm, and input, I doubt I’d be here celebrating 200 reviews. From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely thank you for the views, comments, and shares. Thanks! To celebrate this momentous occasion, I chose to review one of my all-time favourite movies, one that’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Barefoot in the Park (1967), but I can sure as Hell tell you this: It gets better and better each time I do.

Credit: / Paramount Pictures

Based on Neil Simon’s play of the same name, Barefoot in the Park tells the story of Paul and Corie Bratter, a newly-married couple in New York City. Though madly in love, the relationship between the strait-laced Paul and the free-spirited Corie is put to the test when they move into their new apartment. A single bed, eccentric neighbours, and five flights of stairs are only the beginning of their troubles, as Paul and Corie begin to discover how difficult married life really is.

Words can’t describe how much joy this movie brings me. I have fond memories of being a little kid and curling up on the couch, mug of tea and plate of cake in hand, to watch this delightful romantic-comedy each time that I visited my grandparents’ house. An unorthodox movie choice for a small child? Absolutely. But there was no way my grandma was going to sit through mine and my brother’s Pokémon (1997 – present) tapes. Look, as much as I enjoyed watching the shit out of those Pokémon tapes, I can’t thank my grandma enough for introducing me to Barefoot in the Park. As a kid I was bewitched by this amazing movie and now, decades later, I still never get tired of watching it. Oh my God, have I seen this movie more times than I can count.

Barefoot in the Park was my gateway to a lot of things: It was my first time seeing Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, my first adaptation of a Neil Simon play, the first classic movie I fell in love with, my first glimpse at the incredible style of the 1960s… All things I adore and to this day, still draw me to a movie. But more than anything, this was the first time I saw a movie with comedy and dialogue that were written so brilliantly, I’d continue to seek out fantastically-written movies for the rest of my life.

Simon is an astounding playwright. Truly, one of the undisputed greats. He’s a master at being able to tell a fast-paced, engaging, moving love story, while relying on only a handful of characters, and one major set. Logistically, Barefoot in the Park is really bare-bones. The story rarely leaves the Bratter apartment and only a few characters enter it, but Simon mines that set and those characters for all they’re worth. Simon effortlessly creates a story that though small in scale, never feels stifled or stale. His writing is so full of razor-sharp wit, swoon-worthy romance, and raucous comedy, that it makes this intimate comedy feel as big and bold as can be. Simon’s characters are written so memorably dynamic and his comedy scenes so hilariously entertaining, that you’ll be amazed he and director Gene Saks are able to do so much with so little. I swear, I get a huge smile on my face every time I see each character journey up those five flights of stairs.

When watching Barefoot in the Park, it’s impossible not to feel like you’re watching a live stage show. Not solely because of the limited sets and characters, but also because of how well-utilized they are. Every inch of that apartment set is filled with hijinks, ensuring there’s never a dull moment. There’s something about the way that Saks shoots and Simon writes that transports you into this apartment. You have no trouble feeling Paul and Corie’s frustrations as they’re faced with one problem after another, but at the same time, you’re having so much fun that you never want to leave. I know it’s comically small, but as someone who loves tiny living spaces, I’d move into that apartment in a heartbeat. Especially if Jane Fonda and Robert Redford were my roommates.

Think back to when you were young. Who was the first fabulous lady you remember seeing in a movie? Meryl Streep? Angela Bassett? Audrey Hepburn? For me, it was Jane Fonda. As Corie, Fonda endows each line and movement with a healthy dose of exuberant joy and passion, perfectly capturing the character’s free-spirited and romantic nature. Playful, brash, and just brimming with an optimistic disposition that’s impossible to resist, there’s no questioning Fonda’s talent or star-power. Corie’s zest for life is inspiring, to say the least, and I’ll never cease to get a kick out of watching Fonda have THE MOST fun bringing this wild character to life. Ugh, what a fabulous woman. I love her.

I also love Redford as Paul. Though he serves as the perfect straight-man for Corie’s antics, Redford gets his fair share of opportunities to bring the hilarity as well. His deadpan delivery of Paul’s snarky, cutting, sarcastic lines is masterful, and a great balance to the zany energy supplied by Fonda. Even on this viewing, I counted dozens of witty lines that have totally been going over my head all these years! Really, Fonda and Redford are simply a sensational pair to watch onscreen together. They compliment each other so well and their chemistry is indescribable. It’s rare for a movie to cast a couple that are each other’s perfect scene partners, but Barefoot in the Park does so wonderfully.

As phenomenal as Fonda and Redford are, as well as Charles Boyer as the irregular Mr. Victor Velasco, the movie’s biggest scene-stealer is Mildred Natwick. As Corie’s mother, Ethel, Natwick is unbelievably hysterical. Like every single other character in Barefoot in the Park, no matter how small the role, Natwick’s casting is perfection. She plays the dowdy, conservative, sassy, surprisingly heartfelt mother figure with gusto, and lands one iconic one-liner after another. Natwick’s performance was so remarkable, she was even nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, a rarity for comedy! Barefoot in the Park is so frequently farcical and escalates into such chaotic territory, that having Natwick come into a scene and be the most adorkably naive she could possibly be is like a refreshing palate cleanser.

Barefoot in the Park is overloaded with charm. From the writing, to the performances, to the set design, you’d be lying if you said you wouldn’t want to spend at least and hour or two in this effervescent world. Barefoot in the Park is one of those movies that are simultaneously ridiculously fun, while also being incredibly poignant, and inherently soothing. How one movie can manage to do so much baffles me and yet, it’s what’s kept me watching all these years.

Credit: / Paramount Pictures

The pinnacle of quality over quantity, I fucking love this movie. Thanks to Simon’s sensational writing it more than holds up, and I can’t stress how strongly I recommend you check it out. Sure, it’s probably hard to find, but trust me, it’s totally worth it. If you’re looking for just the all-time best viewing experience you could possibly have, watching Barefoot in the Park is a must. Thank you Grandma for giving me the gift of this movie, and again, thank you to all of YOU for the continued support. Here’s to another 200 reviews!

Have you seen Barefoot in the Park? What movies did your grandparents introduce you to?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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