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4.2 out of 5 stars
California Suite
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
Clever direction means that this doesn't seem too play-like and the hotel rooms never seem claustrophobic. A very strong cast is assembled here, with Caine cast against type as a closet case preparing to receive an Oscar with his bitter and scathing wife Maggie Smith. Alan Alda turns in a moving performance as Billy, and Pryor and Cosby, both usually associated with other actors, show us what a good double-act they could have been. It seems to be four plays in one, with the tone of the comedy varying from piece to piece. Alda's section is touching comedy, Walter Matthau's is farce, Caine's is wry observation while Cosby's is farce again. The brevity of the individual pieces means that the film moves along at a cracking pace, leaving you wanting more. If you do want more, I suggest Neil Simon's Plaza Suite.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
The biggest problem that I had with this film is that it never felt like a film. It always felt like a stage play, and because of that it was stagey and awkward and never more than a little stiff in nature. The intersecting stories never truly intersected and so they felt too singular. The dialog in some parts (especially in the storyline involving Alan Alda and Jane Fonda) was excruciatingly wordy and unnatural and, well, play-like which works on the stage but feels awkward on the big screen, where things are supposed to be more naturalistic in nature.

The acting though, is quite good on many fronts. It is no shock that Maggie Smith won the Oscar for her staggering portrayal of an Oscar nominated actress hoping to actually win the gold man while battling her inner turmoil over her gay husband, played beautifully by Michael Caine (one of the most interesting actors of his generation). I also thought that Jane Fonda was very good and she juggled her wordy dialog rather well, even if I found a lot of what came out of her mouth to be ridiculous. There were some sore spots though. Alda is always preachy and off-putting to me. I really wanted to enjoy Cosby and Pryor, but their whole segment was one preposterous slapstick moment after another, and they sold NONE of it. It was just a lot of falling and yelling and acting angry and none of it felt remotely genuine and it didn't even feel campy, it just felt dumb. Matthau's scenes were also blandly put together, although I found Elaine May's portrayal of his stunned wife to be rather spot on.

At the end of the day, `California Suite' is just messy. It is inconsistent and fragmented and never quite rises above its own detractors.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
There is a certain amount of contrivance and staginess to be expected in many Neil Simon film adaptations. I mention this only for viewers who may not be familiar with Simon as a playwright/screenwriter whose most successful days included "The Odd Couple" and "The Goodbye Girl." Working almost exclusively in theater and TV for the past 20 years, it seems as if he retreated from film after dabbling in original screenplays for such dubious films as "The Slugger's Wife" and "The Marrying Man." Well for good or bad, "California Suite" is pure Simon circa 1978--a West Coast riff and companion piece to his successful "Plaza Suite." If you are a Simon fan, this is undoubtedly a must-have film for a variety of reasons. If, however, you have no idea who Simon is--there is still much to recommend "California Suite."

Structured as four overlapping stories set in one Los Angeles hotel, Simon has assembled a pretty impressive array of talent. Jane Fonda and Alan Alda play a divorced couple engaged in verbal warfare over the welfare of her daughter. Fonda, anyway, is especially brutal and annoyed that Alda has assumed a laid back California persona. Walter Matthau displays his comedy chops trying to remove a prostitute from his room. Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor face off in grand slapstick fashion when only one vacancy is available. And Maggie Smith and Michael Caine are on hand from England to attend the Oscars. Smith's character has been nominated and in an amusing bit of real life, Smith won Best supporting Actress for this role! Told you it was a good cast!

"California Suite," undoubtedly, is in the middle range of Simon's oeuvre. He did get a screenplay nomination in addition to Smith's statuette. It's hard to deny the appeal of seeing this big name cast let loose. Fonda and Alda are quite good in the most dramatically rendered sequence, Matthau is a delight, and Smith and Caine are brilliant. For me, Pryor and Cosby provided the most tedious of the stories--but I can certainly understand the mainstream commercial appeal they had at the time. The whole thing does come off as a filmed play (that's the staginess and contrivance I mentioned at the get-go) which isn't a problem for me or other fans, but could be potentially off-putting to new viewers. Pretty funny, for the most part, with good to great performances. I personally could watch Smith (here in her prime) all day long! KGHarris, 11/10.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2008
Format: DVD
Neil Simon's California Suite
FOUR LIGHTWEIGHT PLAYLETS BY NEIL SIMON ALL SET IN THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL IN LOS ANGELES. ALAN ALDA, JANE FONDA, WALTER MATTHAU, RICHARD PRYOR, ARE AMONG THOSE WHO INDULGE IN SIMON'S FUN AND GAME ALTHOUGH IT IS MAGGIE SMITH, AS AN ENGLISH STAGE ACTRESS NOMINATED FOR AN ACADEMY AWARD, AND MICHAEL CAINE AS HER HUSBAND, WHO CONTRIBUTE TO THE SHARPEST AND MOST HUMOROUS SKETCH. A COLUMBIA PICTURE, DIRECTED BY HERBERT ROSS, WITH ALAN ALDA, MICHAEL CAINE, BILL COSBY, JANE FONDA, WALTER MATTHAU, ELAINE MAY, RICHARD PRYOR, MAGGIE SMITH. COLOUR. 103 mins.
NOTE: Maggie Smith's Award made her the third actress to win in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. She had previously won as Best Actress for THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE in 1969. See also HELEN HAYES and INGRID BERGMAN (Gaslight, Anastasia, Murder on the Orient Express).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2014
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I purchased 'California Suite' for the Jane Fonda and Alan Alda segment of this film. A divorced couple meeting in L.A. to discuss future visitation arrangements for their daughter. The mother's entrenched in the New York scene, the father's ensconced in the west coast lifestyle. It only takes a few minutes in each other's company before they're soaring in the high atmosphere of scalding banter. They begin this meeting as adversaries but end it as each other biggest fan. And all done with wit and style and no profanity. And we believe their daughter will benefit greatly from their experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Neil Simon assembled a great cast over some complicated stories to bring this movie to life. It is sincere, hilarious, touching and timeless. I think this is also the only movie that Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor appear in together. It crosses the lines of sex and race and is truly an American masterpiece.
Great for date-night, or a rainy day.
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Format: DVD
This film is a serious and hilarious look at the lives of four very different groups of people who are staying at the swank Beverly Hills Hotel. Each group is visiting California for their own special reasons and run into various snags, conflicts, or peculiar circumstances which complicate their lives immensely and which they are forced to resolve. Regardless of the solution, it has far-reaching consequences for their future. The resolutions to their dilemmas makes for a highly entertaining film with outstanding performances and impressive storylines.

In the first scenario, Alan Alda plays Bill Warren a screen writer now living in California whose teenage daughter had flown across the USA to be with him, essentially she escaped from her mother, Hannah Warren (played by Jane Fonda) who is a highly successful writer living in New York. I was impressed by the deep emotional responses to the personal circumstances which arose between Bill and Hannah as they explored the options and their reaction to their daughter's choice to visit her father and possibly live with him.Bill and Hannah clearly had different approaches to life and understood the reasons they had divorced, yet had a love and respect for each other that transcended their great differences. Bill accepted the fact that it was best for Jenny to live with her mother and yet because Jenny had flown to see him, was placed in the difficult situation of choosing what is best for Jenny in the long run. . Hannah explores the "mother-daughter" relationship and bond, wanting to do the right thing for Jenny and expressing her feelings with depth and passion. Both Alan Alda and Jane Fonda provide astonishing performances with realism and depth, allowing the viewer to see their true acting abilities from a new perspective.

In another partly serious, partly humorous scenario, Diane Barrie played by Maggie Smith comes to California with her husband Sidney Cochrane, to accept an Oscar. While they are getting ready to attend the ceremonies, Diana's nerves bring forth her insecurities about her beauty, her acting and her feelings about their marriage. Both Diana and Sidney express their feelings and thoughts which eventually reveals a more serious underlying reason which exists for Diana's insecurity. She is unsure of herself and her marriage for a hidden reason which comes to light. Given the current climate of society which only now is beginning to discuss, and provide social acceptance of this "real" reason, this film provides great insight into their lives and those who chose the solution this couple accepted and lived with. Maggie Smith and Michael Caine provide the right nuances and emotional expressions in their highly personal resolution to the problem which they are facing.

Walter Mathau plays Marvin Michaels who arrived in California to attend the Bar Mitvah of his nephew. Being Marvin arrived one day early, his brother Harry arranges for some personal and private adult entertainment by a beautiful young blond named Bunny. Marvin convinces Bunny he is a happily married man but somehow they imbibe in a large amount of alcoholic beverages to the point where Bunny falls asleep in his bed. Millie his wife arrives to the hotel, while Marvin engages in all sorts of subterfuge trying to avoid discovery of his potential break in their marriage vows. Millie has caught on that something is wrong and eventually discovers exactly what Marvin is hiding in his room. The "cat is out of the bag" and Marvin has a lot of convincing to do to prove to Millie he was not unfaithful and it was all his brother's fault. The scenes are hilarious and Walter Mathau shines as always in his comedic role.

Last but not least, are two couples, Dr. Willis Panama and Dr. Chauncy Gump who together with their wives arrive at the Beverly Hills Hotel for a long overdue vacation. However, it turns out there is only one suite available, all the other rooms are fully booked. Dr. Willis Panama played by Bill Cosby and his wife Bettina (Sheila Frazier) are assigned the suite. Dr. Chauncy Gump (Richard Pryor) and his wife Lola (Gloria Gifford) are found some accommodations which were very small and had recently been repaired. One thing after the other goes wrong with their vacation plans, as the two couples become rivals and eventually engage in a couples tennis match which becomes the final culimination of their frustrations. They engage in a 'life and death' game of tennis which symbolizes the growing tensions which each side is trying to conceal but can not help express throughout their vacation.

This is an outstanding film with amazing actors who portray their various characters and roles with great skill and emotional depth. The story lines in each of the four scenes are very different and highly engaging as resolutions are sought for the serious dilemmas that arise. Erika Borsos (pepper flower)
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VINE VOICEon September 12, 2012
Format: DVD
This is based on Neil Simon's story about four families staying at the "Pink Palace," the Beverly Hills Hotel in California. This movie in some ways is reminiscent of MGM's 1932 classic, The Grand Hotel, where different characters staying at the hotel interact and their lives becomes intertwined into one big story. The major flaw in this movie is that the stories of four different couples are not linked as in the Grand Hotel. The four guests at the hotel are; visitors from NY, visitors from Philadelphia, visitors from Chicago, and visitors from London. The visitors from New York stars Jane Fonda as Hanna Warren and Alan Alda as Bill Warren, fight over the custody of their teenage daughter; if she should stay with her mother in New York City or move to Los Angeles to be with her father. The bickering becomes boring at times, but some creative writing coupled with Jane Fonda's fine performance and superb directing by Herbert Ross make the movie watchable.

The Visitors from Philadelphia casts Walter Matthau as Marvin Michaels, a married man who is awakened to find a call girl in an unconscious state in his bed, when his wife (Elaine May) is coming over to meet him in the motel room. It is absolutely hilarious to watch this screwball comedy when he tries to hide the call girl on his bed from his wife. He appears to have a penchant as a hotel guest; this makes me remember the movie, The Plaza Suite with Maureen Stapleton and several other ladies. Millie Michaels played by Elaine May is equally wonderful in making the situation a big comedic farce. She looks absolutely cool, when she finds out that her husband slept with the hooker, and probably nothing happened. This is reflected in the dialogue between the couples:

Marvin Michaels: Millie... I want you to turn around. But please - no matter what you see - don't say anything for ten seconds. [Millie turns. She sees the unconscious hooker]
Millie Michaels: One... two... I'm praying, Marvin. I'm praying very hard the maid came in here to do your room, got dizzy, and fainted from overwork. I'm praying to God the maids in this hotel wear pajamas.

Millie Michaels: I've never seen you so sex-crazed in the morning!
Marvin Michaels: I never realized that it was the morning

Marvin Michaels: Do you know who that is?
Millie Michaels: Yes, it's our hooker. Do you think I would ride with strangers?

Millie Michaels: How much would you say she is, Marvin? Does she look like a fifty dollar hooker to you?
Marvin Michaels: I don't know... I guess so...
Millie Michaels: What a cheap brother you've got. We spend a HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE on his lousy kid! (Marvin is in town for his nephew's Bar-Mitzvah, and the hooker is set by his brother played by Herb Edelman).

The episode, Visitors from Chicago casts Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor as two doctors who bring their wives (Sheila Frazier and Gloria Gifford) on a vacation where everything goes wrong. The chemistry between Cosby and Pryor is great as they battle out their wits in this screwball slapstick.

Maggie Smith plays Diana Barrie; a British actress visiting Hollywood to attend the Academy awards ceremony with her gay husband Sidney Barrie (Michael Caine). They try to cope with pre-award nervousness and hurl absurdities over each other while working out uncertainties in their relationship. In the story of the film, Diana Barrie loses the Oscar award, but in actual awards, she wins in the best supporting actress category. In 1954, Judy Garland did not win the award for her role in "A Star is born," but in the story she wins the academy award. This is reversed in California Suite. Who decides this farce to occur? After winning her award, Maggie Smith said that instead of making a prompt departure to London as her character in the film, she will stay in Hollywood for another week and enjoy her winning. The film was shot mainly in Beverly Hills Hotel and also on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills and off Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Malibu, CA.

1. A Star Is Born (1954)
2. Plaza Suite
3. Neil Simon's London Suite
4. Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys
5. Barefoot in the Park
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
There is a certain amount of contrivance and staginess to be expected in many Neil Simon film adaptations. I mention this only for viewers who may not be familiar with Simon as a playwright/screenwriter whose most successful days included "The Odd Couple" and "The Goodbye Girl." Working almost exclusively in theater and TV for the past 20 years, it seems as if he retreated from film after dabbling in original screenplays for such dubious films as "The Slugger's Wife" and "The Marrying Man." Well for good or bad, "California Suite" is pure Simon circa 1978--a West Coast riff and companion piece to his successful "Plaza Suite." If you are a Simon fan, this is undoubtedly a must-have film for a variety of reasons. If, however, you have no idea who Simon is--there is still much to recommend "California Suite."

Structured as four overlapping stories set in one Los Angeles hotel, Simon has assembled a pretty impressive array of talent. Jane Fonda and Alan Alda play a divorced couple engaged in verbal warfare over the welfare of her daughter. Fonda, anyway, is especially brutal and annoyed that Alda has assumed a laid back California persona. Walter Matthau displays his comedy chops trying to remove a prostitute from his room. Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor face off in grand slapstick fashion when only one vacancy is available. And Maggie Smith and Michael Caine are on hand from England to attend the Oscars. Smith's character has been nominated and in an amusing bit of real life, Smith won Best supporting Actress for this role! Told you it was a good cast!

"California Suite," undoubtedly, is in the middle range of Simon's oeuvre. He did get a screenplay nomination in addition to Smith's statuette. It's hard to deny the appeal of seeing this big name cast let loose. Fonda and Alda are quite good in the most dramatically rendered sequence, Matthau is a delight, and Smith and Caine are brilliant. For me, Pryor and Cosby provided the most tedious of the stories--but I can certainly understand the mainstream commercial appeal they had at the time. The whole thing does come off as a filmed play (that's the staginess and contrivance I mentioned at the get-go) which isn't a problem for me or other fans, but could be potentially off-putting to new viewers. Pretty funny, for the most part, with good to great performances. I personally could watch Smith (here in her prime) all day long! KGHarris, 11/10.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2002
Format: DVD
Jane fonder and Alan Alder are hysterical, claws are drawn at dawn as she muses to her one-time hubby about how very 'California' he is, all boyish charms and effervescence, as she...ever the sharp New Yorker...pops another ciggy in her cake-hole and manages the impossible, a verbal tirade while inhaling. (Reminded me of the blood letting dialogue delivered so deftly by Kate Hepburn in 'The Lion in Winter'). Walter Matthau is side splitting as he seeks to cheat on the good wife (Elaine May..she is so sweet most men would cheat with her not on her), of course for Walt it all goes Royally wrong. .
Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor play rich-man poor-man doctors et spouse on the vacation from hell in LA...and take competitiveness to interstellar levels. What totally ices this summer pudding though is Maggie smiths' awesome performance as an Englishwoman coping....just...with not getting the Oscar for which she's been nominated...for not having a clue how to dress in superficial, bitchy, hot LA...for not noticing her husband eyeing up every man under 30 (Michael Cain at sympathetic best), and not lobbing herself out the emergency escape hatch on the flight home..."Oh my God!...tell them I want to get off...darling tell them I want to get off..they're only playing my f-ing film". She did get that Oscar though. What a performance
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