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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 1999
I see I'm going to have to stand up for this film!
This is an
incredibly insightful look at the sexual revolution, filmed even as
the changes happening in our society were still developing!!!
couples struggle with the concept of fulfillment. Treating their each
and every desire for temporal pleasure as an entitlement, they come
face to face with their personal limits, and the dehumanizing aspects
of hedonism.
The end is more evocotive then Leonard Maltin ... would
have you believe.
All of them have woken up (in the evening) to
their collective morning after. They are in the elevator coming down
from their "trip." They are shellshocked. The music
swells..."what the world needs now is love sweet
Love. The part of the equation they had forgotten to
account for.
They exit the elevator and walk out into the Vegas
night. Peoplo from all over the world have come to the same place,
are struggling with the same issues, trying to find someway of making
contact with each other.
Maybe I'm just an old hippie. Maybe it is
pretentious. I also know it is the film truest to that time and what
happened to that generation.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2007
Capturing the sexual revolution of the late sixties, this comedy presents two married couples, free-thinking and ready (or so they think) for an open marriage Bob (Robert Culp) and Carol (Natalie Wood) and their best friends, a more traditional couple, Ted (Elliot Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon). I love the film and I believe that it has aged very well. Its theme and the way it was presented are definitely not dated. Many scenes are hilarious and superbly acted by all four main characters, Gould and Cannon being outstanding. I also believe that 60s was the best dressed decade for women (don't like pirate shirts for men, though :)) and I enjoyed the beauty of the film. It's got real class that is timeless.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2006
In my consumer guide mode, I should first mention one very simple way to tell whether you might like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice--do you like films that are almost all dialogue? If not, you should stay away from this one, because that's 90 percent of it. It's very poignant and often clever dialogue, but dialogue nonetheless.

A dialogue-laden film can't succeed without grand performances, and we get just that from the four principal actors. I was especially impressed with Elliott Gould, partially because I haven't always liked him in other films.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice deals with normal, middle class couples in the late 1960s who are trying to deal with and adapt to cultural spillover from the then-popular hippie movement. Bob (Robert Culp) is a filmmaker who wants to do a documentary on something of a "personal exploration retreat". While initially checking the retreat out, he and wife Carol (Natalie Wood) completely forget about the film and become wrapped up in the personal exploration taking place. When they get back home, they introduce their new approach to life and interpersonal communications to best friends Ted (Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon), who think that Bob and Carol have gone a bit looney. They really think that when later Carol suddenly announces that Bob had a brief affair with another woman and they're both happy with it. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice then becomes primarily an exploration of how average middle class folks deal with attempts to incorporate hippie sexual liberation beliefs into their lives.

It's a great idea, handled with aplomb by writer-director Paul Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker. Interestingly, Mazursky revisited the same basic ideas in Scenes from a Mall (1991), which enabled him to show how much popular cultural attitudes had changed between the late 1960s and the early 1990s. Here, the cultural clash between hippies and the middle class allows him to adeptly explore a number of themes, ranging from hippie ideals as a trend to be followed rather than ideals that are believed in for their own sake, to the psychological conflicts of intrinsic desires either against other intrinsic desires or against cultural conditioning and expectations. Mazursky employs an artful restraint so that these themes are only implicit, but they're definitely present.

The ending of the film is highly unusual but effective, although especially for me--as someone who champions extremely liberal sexuality and thinks monogamy isn't really a great idea--there was a contradictory one-two punch of being disheartening, then shortly after uplifting. The effect of the final scene was a bit enigmatically ambiguous. But I don't think that's a bad thing at all.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2003
Certainly a movie that has publicized the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies. Very interesting how Bob and Carol's carefree attitude about sex eventually loosens up Ted and Alice's more conservative ways.
Its interesting how Bob and Carol test their relationship with their affairs. Amusing how Carol is quicker to be more accepting of their individual affairs than Bob. Ted and Alice at first are appalled by each of their infidelities. However when they hear the reasons behind their actions, they lighten up their approaches. Bob and Carol truly love each other where their affairs are merely for recreational purposes.
Those who are intrigued by psychology or the free love generation of the late sixties will be specially interested in this video.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2006
Unlike alot of the films rooted in the counterculture of the sixties, "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" dates well because essentially it is a film that champions fidelity. How else do you expose the shallow aspects of free love without making a farce of it? Director-writer Paul Mazursky doesn't bludgeon his point home but gently tweaks it. The film is also helped that Bob (Robert Culp) and Carol(Natalie Wood) are fully-fleshed characters and not stereotypical new-agers to be mocked. You may laugh at their foibles but you do not laugh at their characters. The more interesting characters are the staid Ted(Elliott Gould) and Alice(Dyan Cannon) who the audience can probably most identify with. Ted and Alice are conservative Yuppie types who may verbalize horror at their swinging compatriots but subliminally fantasize about their lifestyle. All the principal actors are good here and the laugh quota is extremely high.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2003
"Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" is an insightful film about the sexual revolution.
It deals with two couples -- one older and into "experimentation" (Bob & Carol), and the other younger and more square (Ted & Alice).
In a sense, the sexual experimentation of Bob and Carol epitomized the 60's ethos of (perhaps pathological) self-reflection and the idea that "if it feels good, do it." (We're still feeling the reverberations of that.)
But the ending of this enjoyably funny movie also indicates that most people can only go so far. Whether its cultural conditioning or innate, there are certain lines that most people simply cannot cross....
The movie does not pass judgment, but ultimately, there is a message there.
All the actors are good, but Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon especially so. (They were both nominated for supporting Oscars.) Dyan Cannon is wonderful -- she's the best thing about the movie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 24, 2013
A few weeks ago I settled in to watch `Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' and I have to say that I expected something far less profound and meaningful than what I was actually presented with. I don't know why I was under the false impression that this was a comedy, and while some may try and pass this off as a black comedy it really isn't. The dramatic and rather prolific gut punch of the film's finale (masked over by a somewhat hopeful `walk of the couples') is too much to be passed off as a comedy.

This film is too real.

`Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' tells the story of two very different couples that come together in bizarre and unexpected ways when the Sanders' return home from a therapy retreat with some odd ideas about love and `sharing'. Bob and Carol are liberal and have no problems exposing their feelings, or at least a superficial version of their feelings. Their friends, Ted and Alice Henderson are uncomfortable with their friend's newfound openness. Things come to a head when Bob has an affair and is bowled over by Carol's reaction. She embraces it. She not only forgives him on the spot but pries at him for details and encourages him to keep it up. An open marriage is a happy marriage, apparently, and she seems to thrive on the idea of her husband's happiness. The Henderson's, especially Alice, are not as understanding. When Alice hears of Bob's betrayal she is seething. She is dripping with loathing and is completely aghast at Alice's acceptance of Bob's indiscretions, so much so that she feels uncomfortable in her presence.

Here is where the cracks in their relationships and personas start to rear their heads. I mentioned earlier that Bob and Carol had no problem sharing these superficial perceptions of their true feelings; the masked idea of their ideals they wanted to project for those around them to ascertain and `believe' was their newfound clarity. The thing is, Bob and Carol are just as confused as everyone else by their new stance on life and love and this is made VERY clear by the way they answer questions and meet viewer judgment. Just the way that Carol feels obligated to share with Alice and Ted that Bob has had an affair was a way of gaining attention for her relaxed perception of life, which she so eagerly wants those around her to accept, as if she is still uncertain that their eye opening experience in that retreat was as life affirming or life altering as she thought it was. When Ted confronts Bob with his affair and asks him if he would be as forgiving or as understanding if Carol had had an affair, he answers without hesitation. This isn't something he's even thinking about. This is his new outlook on life and it is coming so easily to him.

Until it isn't easy anymore.

No, the kinks in this new outlook are exposed the second Bob comes home early from a business trip and finds his wife having an affair of her own. His emotional collapse, his instant state of panic and anger and betrayal come crashing in on him to the point where he can't even muster the strength to pretend that he's ok with it all, until he has to. Until he's forced to admit that fair is fair and that his new outlook on life is what is important. You can see, right then and there, that they haven't thought this thing through, and yet they are too deep to turn back just yet.

This is where the Henderson's own experiences come into play. I relate to these two personally, because I've been in their shoes. When you are attached to a certain couple you start to become steeped in their lives and their foolish decisions begin to weigh heavily on you, to the point where they become your stupid decisions. The Henderson's are not entirely prudish (at least Ted isn't), but they are nowhere near as comfortable with themselves as the Sanders are. What is particularly unsettling about this couple, and what I reacted to the strongest, was the way that they allowed their personal feelings about the wayward direction of their friend's lives to affect their own marriage and their reactions to one another. This is especially notable in Alice, who not only happens to be my favorite character in the film but also contains my favorite performance (Dyan Cannon is marvelous here). I don't know what this says about my marriage, because I see so much of my wife in Alice, but maybe it says something about my feelings for her if I admit that Alice is my favorite character. Sure, she can appear to be shrill and unsympathetic and controlling and selfish, but at the center of it I see a virtue there; an almost all knowing understanding, deeper than that of her husband and friends.

But of course, folly comes to those that bait it, and the Henderson's, especially Ted, fall into a desensitized moral state. Allowing Bob's staunch stance on his newfound views persuade him, Ted begins to fancy the idea of meaningless affairs. What makes this all the more impactful is the fact that Bob himself is basically convincing his unsuspecting friend of something that he himself isn't entirely convinced of but is merely parading around as a mask to hide his own confusion. He's a poser, but a dangerous one because he doesn't have the common sense to keep his idea of ideals to himself so as not to pollute or even destroy the lives of those he holds close to him.

He doesn't know what he's doing.

All of this culminates into something rather abrupt yet expected as the couple vacation together and wind up contemplating the unthinkable (or should I say inevitable); swinging. I'd say `wife swapping', but when you factor in that it is really Alice who, at her breaking point, becomes the advocate for the `swap' it really takes on a different connotation. In fact, her mental collapse and subsequent disillusioned suggestion really breaks down all of the film's walls and paints a fuller, more heart wrenching story.

Paul Mazursky directs this tale with the needed restraint, allowing the passion for the subject to seep through into the many layers (crevices) of the film and not become a burden or an abrasive distraction. This is aided by the brilliant performances by the cast, most notable the two women. I want to start by addressing the disgraceful category fraud on the part of The Academy who placed both Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon in the supporting categories, when there are four LEADS in this film. I can't understand how anyone could classify them as supporting. Alas, that is an entirely different discussion.

Dyan Cannon delivers one of the most emotionally layered and dynamic (not to mention brutally honest) performances I've seen in film, ever. The way that she filters her character's moral superiority, clustered confusion, intimacy issues (both sexual and emotional) and obvious naivety send shivers down my spine. Natalie Wood is also a standout, taking on a completely different character and approaching it from a fresh perspective. She's flirtatious, but never in the obvious ways but always shaded with a personal reluctance to divulge everything she's feeling. She wears her mask off-kilter, which only strengthens her performance.

`Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' is not an easy film. That isn't to say that it is devastating, because Marzursky shades the film in a way that lightens the tones and allows us to digest it without feeling completely crushed, but the aftermath left as the credits roll surely takes its toll, especially if you've ever found yourself in a situation of similarity. This is a surprisingly astute and honest look at the way that friendships and sex can collide and the way that relationships can alter, shift and eventually break under the misguided need to `adapt'.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2009
This well acted but very silly film tries to make swinging seem like an act of honesty and love. A couple (Natalie Wood and Robert Culp, who both turn in great performances) attends a group grope weekend. They get in touch with their emotions (actually, they are subjected to CIA-like manipulation and deprivation techniques which lead to emotional breakdowns) and decide that total and brutal honesty in all relationships is "beautiful" (tell that to a wife who has gained fifteen pounds or to a husband who is having erectile dysfunction). They decide to have an orgy with their best friends (a very hirsute Elliott Gould and lovely Dyan Cannon). After an hour of emotional and conversational back and forth, they all jump into bed together. We don't see any sex (what a tease). Afterwards, they leave the hotel and join a crowd of people outside who are all staring into each other's eyes and, I am guessing, experiencing each other's inner essence while the Burt Bachrach song, "What the world needs now is love" plays in the background. I, for one, don't think that what the world needs now is love, sweet love. I think what it needs is some common sense - something that this film is desperately lacking. Every one of the premises of the film now seems absurd. Being frank is mean. Venting your emotions rather than mastering them is childish and weak. Swinging is a great way to get AIDS and destroy your marriage. BCTA is a lot of tease, a lot of exploitation, some great acting (the actors appear to be improvising, they are so good), and an enormous amount of sixties foolishness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon November 28, 2009
It's tempting to call this archetypical 1969 comedy severely dated, but that would be too superficial a judgment. Taken as a period piece when the sexual revolution was completely redefining the country's moral code, the film is a shrewdly observed, sharply comic character study among the Southern California bourgeoisie. It also marks the auspicious directorial debut of Paul Mazursky, a former actor who ended up making two decades' worth of insightful films focused on personal foibles and sympathetic satire (An Unmarried Woman,Down and Out in Beverly Hills). He cleverly uses the "Hallelujah" chorus of Handel's Messiah to open the film as documentary filmmaker Bob Sanders and his wife Carol drive through the canyons outside LA to an Esalen-like couples' retreat where narcissism runs rampant with participants encouraged to express how they "feel" through group hugs, crying, mutual staring, even pillow punching.

The experience transforms Bob and Carol into a touchy-feely couple so intent on being completely honest with each other that they accept each other's acts of adultery. This level of supposed enlightenment initially appalls their best friends, Ted and Alice Henderson, who hold on tenuously to their more traditional values. However, a weekend in Vegas becomes a cathartic showdown among the two couples, and the outrageous brashness of their liberated behavior comes to a crescendo that manages to be unexpected and predictable at the same time. Mazursky ends things on a surreal note with Jackie DeShannon's classic rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's What the World Needs Now Is Love. Through it all, the four principal actors give sharp performances that wisely leave the motivations for their characters ambiguous enough for the audience to draw their own conclusions.

Coming off his hit TV series I Spy, Robert Culp effectively plays Bob as a hippie-wannabe closing in on middle age and recognizing an innate need to give in to the new moral order to belong. As Carol, Natalie Wood at thirty never looked so sexy nor came across so relaxed onscreen. She brings such an alluring knowingness to the role that it becomes difficult to believe why Bob would want to cheat on her in the first place. In his first major role, Elliott Gould makes Ted an amusing, sympathetic figure who keeps dancing between disgust and envy with increasing alacrity. Dyan Cannon comes closest to stealing the picture since she carries the biggest character arc as Alice. The scene with her psychiatrist is extremely well played. It is her character who does the abrupt about-face that spurs the climax ( should pardon the expression). The 2004 DVD contains a sometimes entertaining, sometimes too self-conscious commentary track featuring Mazursky, Culp, Gould, and Cannon, as well as a twenty-minute interview with Mazursky from 2003.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 30, 2010
Handel's Messiah swells and rises as a green Jaguar drives up a winding road into the mountains. It's headed for a retreat, a getaway for Bob & Carol (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood), a 30ish, well-to-do couple for L.A.; as they approach their destination, the traditional score acquires a rocking background beat, symbolizes the changes in store for the couple, their friends Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon), American film, and I suppose America itself as the sexual revolution combined with a spiritual awakening - or perhaps unrest/disquiet might be a better phrase. Bob is a documentary filmmaker as it turns out, and he just wants to observe and film the goings-on - encounter sessions and group therapy, mostly - but quickly he and Carol get intimately involved, and back in L.A., they feel the need to share their new insights with their more conservative friends.

Ted and Alice mostly humor their slightly hipper friends, until Bob confesses to having an affair on a recent business trip - and Carol accepts it, soon wondering herself if she might like to play around. Alice simply can't deal with what she sees as Bob's betrayal, and perhaps more importantly Carol's betrayal of the quartet's shared moral outlook, and this precipitates a period of unease between the four. Alice eventually seems to become more accepting of this newfound openness and freedom from the traditional structures - for others - but her attitudes will be put on trial when the two couples decide to spend a weekend in Las Vegas.

This is one of those films that you are inevitably going to find attached to the dreaded "d" word - dated. Well, how could it not be in a sense? It's very deliberately about a time (1969) and place (southern California) , and about how the sexual revolution and the search for meaning and a new spirituality in a troubled time affects a group of four young, wealthy, attractive (well, at least the women) friends who consider themselves "hip" and "with it", but show, in varying degrees, the old conservative 50s morals of a previous generation, however much they try to fight it. Peer beneath the surface a little bit, though, and I think you'll find that there's a lot more than the now old-fashioned dialogue, clothing, and moral questions going on here. It's interesting that Mazursky and cowriter Larry Tucker chose to center the story around a quartet in their 30s, for example - it's quite explicit in the film that these are people who still "feel" very young, but have started to act like their parents, have started to become more conservative and less adventurous. And though there's plenty of sex talk, there's no nudity and the ending "orgy" sequence is very oddly and subtly put together - I got the feeling throughout that it is the fantasy element, the what-might-be, that is really what's important in the dynamics here, rather than any real "cheating" or getting away with anything. The film is, I think, more about the possibilities, and about communication, than it is about any actual changing of sexual morality. It doesn't come down for change as such, but for talk, and for thought.

It's a fairly witty and sophisticated comedy, certainly by the standards of American "sex comedies" (in some ways this is more like a French comedy of the time, from Rohmer or Truffaut) and though the dialogue and some of the situations do scream out 1960s, the overall themes of love and neediness and trust are certainly universal. Remarkably enough, the film was a huge box-office success, earning the equivalent of over $80 million in 2010 dollars, enough to place it in the top 10 for the year. It's hard to imagine a talky comedy on adult themes doing anywhere near so well these days, particularly one without huge stars (though Wood in particular was certainly well known). Solid performances all around, especially I think from Natalie Wood, who gets inside the idea of a woman who is really grappling with a changing vision of herself and her world, and who I have to say is about gorgeous here as any woman in any movie ever.

The DVD looks great; I think that Mazursky's talk in front of college students is more valuable and instructive than the joky and self-conscious commentary track provided by him and the surviving actors.
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