Although director Elia Kazan ultimately failed in this uneven if brilliant attempt to bring his best-selling semi-autobiographical novel to the screen, it is a wonderful sociological portrait of a man driven to the edge of madness and despair by what material and career success does to his soul. Kirk Douglas is terrific as Eddie Anderson, the deeply conflicted Greek-American second-generation crossover who buys into the pursuit of American business success and now feels as though his talent and creativity have been totally corrupted and squandered in pursuit of the bitch goddess of success. He has it all, money, sex, and power, and all the toys and accessories such material success means. But his life is increasingly ashes in his mouth, a bitter, lonely, empty and unfulfilling existence that is literally driving Eddie insane.
We watch enraptured as he plunges head-first into a disastrous mid-life crisis, spiraling dangerously down the slippery slope toward madness and involuntary commitment, until slowly and painfully he begins to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it, although all this is obviously done at an amazingly hurtful and angst-filled cost to himself and his loved ones. Deborah Kerr co-stars as his loving but also self-concerned and controlling wife, and Faye Dunaway turns in a compelling performance as the insightful and sarcastic love interest who draws him out of his mid-life diversions and makes him see how expensive his sell-out has been to the real Eddie underneath all the glitz and glamour.
They say this movie had it all in the can, but that somehow author/producer/director Elia Kazan blew it all by cutting and editing it terribly, leaving it disjointed and hard-to-follow. Even though this seems to be true, the movie is uneven but still quite good, with a number of intense and moving scenes with Douglas, Dunaway, Kerr and Richard Boone that are among the best dramatic footage I have ever seen. Watch for the scenes late in the film when Eddie tries to explain himself and his actions to his wife, tryng to verbalize the very complicated reasons he simply cannot work at the ad agency any more. Although she coaxs him into the monologue, promising him she'll do "ANYTHING, god-dammit!" to make him happy, in the end she is quite conflicted, as well, and as a result totally misunderstands him, discounting his problems and conflicts and not hearing his plaintive pleas because she really doesn't want to give up their privileged lifestyle. He pours out his heart and needs, but she isn't listening, reacting angrily instead to what she sees as his selfishness even though she has begged him to be honest about what he really wants.
Such powerful scenes honestly and accurately document the terrible failed attempts at critical communication that too often characterize the destruction of life-long relationships and tragic divorce. Richard Boone of the TV series "Have Gun, Will Travel", an old Douglas friend and associate, also turns in a wonderful performance as Eddie's domineering and senile Greek-immigrant father, a once successful rug-importer who torments Eddie because he wants Eddie to bankroll him for another chance to control his own life. The way all this spins together was the powerful driving stuff behind a best-selling novel. The movie isn't quite as good, but it is still a wonderful, entertaining and powerful drama eminently worth watching.
on August 13, 2000
In short, this movie shows how a man who's succesful and rich but lives in a permanent lie suddenly cracks up -in a very healthy way- and starts from scratch to re-evaluate his life: his job, his feelings toward his wife, his father, his lover. The confrontation between the establishment and someone who just wants to "live" -as he puts it- is brilliantly depicted. Elia Kazan's genius is very clear here. Very good acting from Kirk Douglas, Faye Dunaway and Deborah Kerr. I found interesting similarities between this movie and Peter Weir's Fearless.
on February 13, 2016
"The Arrangement" (1968) is a late film directed by famed director Elia Kazan based on his recent novel then that was a bestseller. Like the movie it was it was more critically panned but popular, and obviously autobiographical. Still, one does not really "get" Kirk Douglas's problem as the lead. He is an ad exec who would rather face suicide than come to terms with his frustrations with himself nor give up his marriage to the "perfect wife" played very well by Deborah Kerr, even though she is really rather cardboard. He is part of the lifeblood to a rather shallow, at that time feminism was becoming important, so it figures we would have Faye Dunaway play "the girl," not playing in a man's world, but very much destroyed because "Eddie" won't leave his wife. Those closest to him resist his choices. At the time it was released, there were a number of films that played into this scenario of a triangle with a much younger woman, but this was old Hollywood spinning a Hollywood tale through the thinly veiled autobiographical aspect which was really a misnomer. Richard Boone excels as the Greek immigrant father succumbing to paranoia in old age and an engine for much of what causes this "arrangement." Really much better than it sounds narrowed down, but Kazan's self-analysis is too weakly constructed. Photographed by Robert Surtees, with music by David Amram. From Warner Bros. in Technicolor and Panavision. The DVD has a small making of anecdote and a trailer. Only for Kazan completists.
on December 4, 2011
The Arrangement (Warner Bros., 1969) was director Elia Kazan's seventeenth film.
Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas) is an advertising executive living a comfortable, upper middle class lifestyle with his proper and fleshy wife, Florence (Deborah Kerr), in a charming California home complete with in-ground pool. But Eddie hates his life and attempts suicide. While recovering, Eddie has flashbacks of his successful but unsatisfying career and of his young, sassy, always-braless mistress, Gwen (Faye Dunaway), who goaded him to follow his desires. Eddie reluctantly returns to the job he hates but ends up buzzing the company offices with his private plane.
As Florence wonders what the hell is going on with her husband, Eddie is summoned to New York City to be with his ailing father, Sam Arness (Richard Boone). Eddie visits Gwen, who also happens to live in New York with her baby, and doesn't give a damn that she has a boyfriend. Meanwhile, Florence chases Eddie to New York to keep close tabs on her unpredictable husband.
Eddie sneaks his father out of the hospital in the middle of the night and brings him back to the family home. The old Greek is suffering from dementia and asks Eddie to take him to the bank for a loan to restart his rug business. At the house, Eddie has flashbacks of his domineering father and Frances walks in on her husband and Gwen in flagrante delicto.
The family commits Sam to a nursing home and Eddie walks in on a meeting with Florence and her lawyer, Arthur (Hume Cronyn), as they draw up divorce papers. Eddie is arrested after setting fire to the family home and being shot by Gwen's jealous boyfriend. Eddie is committed to a mental institution where he's satisfied to stay but Gwen prods him into leaving. Sam dies and the family gathers at the cemetery; Eddie and Gwen together and Frances with Arthur.
The Arrangement was based on Kazan's 1967 best-selling novel by the same title. While the film is not completely autobiographical it does draw heavily on the director's life experiences. Kazan later wrote extensively on his troubled relationships with his father, his puritanical first wife, Molly Thatcher, and his spirited mistress, Barbara Loden. He had also experienced a bit of a personal crisis after becoming extremely dissatisfied with his role as a theatrical director while desiring to be a writer.
Kazan admitted later that alpha-male Douglas was all wrong for the part of troubled Eddie. Truth be told, Kirk Douglas would have been running that ad agency after a year or two. Twenty-eight-year-old Dunaway is bit over-dramatic as the strong-willed mistress but does provide some enticing eye candy. Kazan originally envisioned Barbara Loden playing the part of Gwen, which would have equated to the former-mistress-turned-wife portraying herself. Boone is spot-on as the overbearing father and Kerr is okay as the too-long-suffering wife.
Kazan employs a number of questionable techniques in this film which serve as distractions. There's some cartoonish graphics straight out of the then-popular Batman television show. The conflicted Eddie is made to debate his successful and sales savvy alter-ego within the same scene. Adult Eddie is present in flashbacks to his youth. There's the obligatory nudity (although indirect) and hip, late-60's flashy editing.
Kazan admitted later that The Arrangement was a failure although he argued that too many of the key elements from the novel had to be left out of the film for brevity's sake. This film has only a few redeeming qualities but Kazan fans will appreciate the many references to his own personal life which he elaborated on in detail in his fascinating 1988 autobiography. But give credit to Kazan for attempting a film about finding one's true path, a theme that would later become quite popular in Hollywood. Those who label The Arrangement as Kazan's worst film haven't seen Sea of Grass or The Last Tycoon.
The DVD offers no commentary although the trailer and an interesting but short promotional documentary are included.
on January 12, 2015
As a middle age man going into the famed crisis and a marriage wreckage I found this film film very helpful, and easy to identified myself with.
It kelp me a lot, specially the frase "I cannot do this to the woman I love". No bitterness remained after my divorce.
Douglas, Kerr and Dunaway performances and Kazan's magic direction made this a must see film.
on January 15, 2000
Pay no attention to Lenny's review above. The Arrangement is brilliant, one of the best movies ever. Psychologically intense and somehow realistic and bizarre at the same time. Story, direction and Douglas are all great. But when is the DVD coming!
on February 25, 2007
Panned and patronized at the time of it's initial release, Elia Kazan's adaptation of his best selling book THE ARRANGEMENT plays much better now than it did in 1969. Made after a 6 year hiatus from filmmaking at a time when movies were enjoying unheard of freedom due to the demise of the production code, THE ARRANGEMENT clearly shows that Kazan was still a director to be reckoned with. The basic premise was nothing new. A highly succesful businessman (Kirk Douglas) suffers a mid-life crisis and attempts suicide. How he and the other characters deal with the aftermath make up the rest of the story.
Kazan has always been an actor's director and the film provides a showcase for the young Faye Dunaway as Douglas' mistress who gets him to reexamine his life but wants out to be with someone else. Deborah Kerr in her last major film appearance is superb in the difficult role of the wife who tries to understand what Douglas is going through but doesn't want to give up the rich lifestyle she's become accustomed to. Strong support is given by Hume Cronyn as the family solicitor who has plans of his own and from Richard Boone in a rare non-Western role as Douglas' ailing father. His slide into dementia is both heartbreaking and terrifying. Marlon Brando had originally agreed to play the lead but bowed out allowing Kirk Douglas who really wanted to work with Kazan to step in. He acquits himself well in an emotionally as opposed to a physically demanding role.
The combination of raw emotions, alternating points-of-view including black humor, and touches of surrealism was ambitious then and still is today (think AMERICAN BEAUTY). The movie is not without its flaws. It runs too long and is occasionally sloppy in everything from editing to make-up but the powerful writing and intense performances make THE ARRANGEMENT provocative filmmaking nearly 40 years later. Called everything from a harrowing emotional ride to a self-indulgent mess (see the Amazon summary) it is ultimately for the home viewer to decide (my 4 star rating indicates where I stand). Kazan will always be a controversial figure because of his HUAC testimony in the 1950's but his greatness as a director cannot be denied and remains captured on film for all to see.
on June 8, 2011
I won't disagree entirely with detractors of 'The Arrangement,' as it takes a certain degree of patience and indulgence to make it through to the end without contemplating suicide yourself. As has been the case with scores of authors who lack the objectivity (or will) to pare down their own works adroitly in order to adapt them to film, Elia Kazan has committed the sin of overstuffing his screenplay with events and dialogue from his book, which translates to occasional problems-- some serious-- with TA's dramatic flow and narrative pacing. What saves the picture, in my view, is that the author here is also a skilled director and Kazan does a couple rather risky and intriguing things cinematically to compensate for those excesses. First, we have a strong, strangely muted performance by Kirk Douglas as the hero/villain-protagonist, a lost man whose disgust with the world, its systems and his part in them, has driven him to self-destruction by nearly any and all means. He is established as a darkly disturbed Walter Mitty, whose daydreams and delusions are shown to us throughout the movie's two-hour running time (I include in this even the critically maligned comic-book-caption scene during which he fantasizes about pummeling a romantic rival Batman-style); a self-aggrandizing and ultimately defeated man who wants, like Melville's Bartleby, after a life devoted to fairly meaningless endeavor, to be allowed to do nothing. This is presented unevenly, at times with a heavy artistic hand, I admit, but it mostly works for me, and in terms of socio-thematic aesthetic, I think, even presages the wave of introspective 'lost man' films ('Five Easy Pieces,' 'The Hospital,' 'Save the Tiger,' 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest,' etc.) produced by up-and-coming directors the following decade. Second, we have scene after scene of meaningful exchange, mercurially interposed and intelligently scripted (if overdone in certain minor scenes which can diminish other, more important ones in proximity), presenting multiple sides of a conflict by a mixture of characters with a mixture of motives-- much like, too much like, life. This can become burdensome to the viewer as he attempts to make-- as one does while watching a drama, which TA is, satiric as it may be at times-- value judgements about the players on the screen, deciding who is right and who is wrong, good and bad, etc. The process is frustrating, because everyone Douglas crosses swords with (even the sleazy family lawyer and the abusive, autocratic father) makes valid points, and the pertinent plot elements swirling around Douglas's vain and troubled worldview-- elements that we have been struggling to untangle-- end up as background noise to 'the message' Kazan is trying to get across about the modern modes of success and society, family and relationships versus the very old and constant notion of self, which strikes a pretty pessimistic note (though never didactically) as the film progresses.
Supporting cast is very good, including a somewhat shrill (!) Deborah Kerr, a dynamic Faye Dunaway (in an apparent screen test for her turn as the quintessential post-feminist superwoman/floozy in 'Network'), an oily Hume Cronyn, and an oddly cast and equally oddly effective Richard Boone. If you're hearty enough to handle TA, I think the payoff is there. It won't uplift, but it will entertain cogently with all its flaws and perhaps even spark a conversation or two. 3 1/2 stars.
on March 30, 2011
"The Arrangement" was much maligned by the critics in its day. But this film is so prophetic for those of us of a certain generation: we who had to choose between the status quo and following our bliss. I saw this film during the spring of my senior year in college. I went with two friends--one hated "The Arrangement" and two of us were so moved that we could barely speak about it. Very soon after, I chose my bliss and had one of the most dramatic, tragic and yet most creatively satisfying lives of anyone I know. I survived so much--social upheavel and sexual revolution, Est and meditation, all of which finally led me to Jung at a time much like that of "The Arrangement's" protagonist, so expertly mirrored in Kirk Douglas's portrayal. If you still have any sense of the adventure and absurdity of life or if you're just arriving at adulthood confused as to how choose your life's road and work, this powerful film is for you. Although it is an American big-studio project, it has the feel of Fellini, Antonionni and French new wave, all filmed by the great Surtees. If you can take the time to sit down and let "The Arrangement" wash over you, I promise you will come cleansed, a better person with questions to answer and answers to some of your lifelong questions.
on November 25, 2000
I saw this movie on the big screen years ago when I was a university student, and it is definitely still one of the most impressionable, memorable movies I have ever seen. The movie grips you from beginning to end and you wonder what it is heading for. I recall the slow horror that filled me as the leading actor's (i learn from the reviews it is Kirk Douglas) mind begins to show schizophrenic tendencies, but what is scary is that schizophrenia appears as something very everyday, a form of alienation, something that I felt we are all going through without realising it. I thought this is a movie about myself - or my two selves ! I want to see it on video to see if I feel the same intensity I felt then. And another thing , it was intensely ..., the scenes between kirk Douglas and Faye Dunaway. This is definitely a special movie, bringing out deeper inner traumas...and oh yes reminds me of other movies of this genre(The Graduate comes to mind) that expose the hollow,social world of high society. A very watchable movie though very disturbing !