How Do I Love Thee?

  • 1970
  • 1 HR 50 MIN
  • PG
  • Comedy, Drama

When novelist Peter De Vries is funny he is one of the best; when he tries to be philosophical and sage he is beyond boredom. Here coproducer Freeman and cowriter Tunberg have collaborated with De Vries to bring us one of the dullest attempts at comedy ever attempted. Lenz has long been at odds with his father, Gleason. When he learns Gleason is at Lourdes,...read more

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When novelist Peter De Vries is funny he is one of the best; when he tries to be philosophical and sage he is beyond boredom. Here coproducer Freeman and cowriter Tunberg have collaborated with De Vries to bring us one of the dullest attempts at comedy ever attempted. Lenz has long been at

odds with his father, Gleason. When he learns Gleason is at Lourdes, attempting to recover from some unnamed illness, he rushes off to France, despite the misgivings of his wife, Forsyth, who thinks Gleason is the reason for all of Lenz's shortcomings. In a long flashback while he's aboard a plane

jetting to Europe, Lenz reflects back on his life. Gleason, in flashback, is a devout atheist at odds with wife O'Hara, a born-again Christian with equally dogmatic beliefs. Gleason seeks other pastures and has a fling with Winters, a Bohemian artist, but that fling never is consummated (in a

series of flat comedy scenes where the two behemoths attempt to make love and never can get together). Winters decides she should exit and gives Gleason a poem as her farewell present. Lenz becomes a philosophy teacher and marries one of his students, Forsyth, and everything seems to be wonderful,

with Lenz in line for a promotion. Gleason sends Winters' poem to a poetry contest and wins a $10,000 prize, which he intends to donate to his son's department at the college, a selfless motion of love on Gleason's part, as he is only a furniture mover and could use the money himself. But the

poem, as it turns out, was actually written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the money is rescinded, thereby shaming Gleason and causing Lenz to lose his chance for a better position. That goes, instead, to Beddoe, whom Lenz despises, and Lenz must be content with the same job or leave the

school and find some other occupation. Gleason relents on his atheism and goes into a church, where he promises God he'll stay out of Lenz's life if his son can be granted the job he thought was his. That prayer evidently works, as Beddoe dies almost instantly, and Lenz moves up a notch. We flash

out of flashback, and Lenz goes to Gleason's bedside, where he learns Gleason feels personally responsible for Beddoe's demise, believing the man would still be alive had he not stumbled into church to make a deal with the Lord. Lenz assures him that's not the case; Beddoe had expired before

Gleason marched into the house of worship. Once Gleason realizes his prayer had nothing to do with Beddoe's exit, he recovers miraculously. Forsyth, who has come on the next plane, arrives and announces, as the film ends, she is pregnant. Just under two hours is needed to tell this story, which

might have been far more effective if more judiciously edited, but Freeman, who also did THE MALTESE BIPPY, apparently doesn't like to edit his writing. Even Jackie Gleason isn't funny in this movie, and that takes a lot of doing. A disappointing outing for all concerned, mostly the audience.

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