IN THE ACTOR’S SPOTLIGHT WITH JACK NICHOLSON REVIEW: “Carnal Knowledge” stars Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown), Art Garfunkel (The Rebound, Catch-22 ), Ann-Margret (Bye Bye Birdie, Grumpy Old Men), Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown [TV series], Miss Congeniality), Rita Moreno (West Side Story , Oz [TV series]), Cynthia O’Neal (Wolf, Primary Colors), and Carol Kane (The Princess Bride, The Pacifier). It is directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Closer) and written by Jules Feiffer (Popeye , Little Murders). Following the lives of two friends Jonathan (Nicholson) and Sandy (Garfunkel), this film explores their individual sexual developments from college into later adulthood.
Our first stop on this Nicholson tour takes us back to the early 70s with “Carnal Knowledge,” a controversial film of its time that dealt with sex, sex, and more sex. Hey, is there enough sex talk in this? I don’t think there is. An hour and a half of it clearly isn’t enough. Sarcastic banter aside, this is an interesting flick to delve into. It’s concept is basic, conflict well-known, yet dialogue intriguing. It’s that kind of wordy, “intelligent” talk you would find on any early 2000s teen soap, but this kind of writing was even more prevalent around this time. It was risky to make movies like this, yet the new generation had something to say; they were tired of being phony, and wanted to get to the nitty gritty. Too bad the nitty gritty can get tiresome, as “Carnal Knowledge” is essentially a ninety minute fit of exhaustion. We take a walk with two guys over the course of twenty years, hearing their conflicting views on relationships and watching them attempt to woo various women in order to get in bed with them. Is there a point to this all? I thought there was, but by the end there really wasn’t. The whole time, you figure that it’s a study in where two different personalities/approaches to relationships can get you: Garfunkel is the sensitive, endearing spirit, while Nicholson is the brash, electric beast. One wants an honest, simple relationship, while the other just wants a hot woman to look at. It’s a good concept to watch unravel and fit for a strong lesson, but by the time you get to the halfway point, nothing really matters. Garfunkel’s character takes a turn, becoming only a wimpier version of Nicholson’s and throwing the balance off-kilter. From that point, it’s just a mindless viewing of two dudes dealing with relationships where all they want is sex. Sigh. Maybe this is the kind of coffee Nicholson and co. want to sip on, but not this fellah. Granted, there are good qualities to “Carnal Knowledge.” The performances are strong, with solid turn-ins by both Nicholson and Garfunkel, and the cinematography was really good. It had some artistic shots that I enjoyed watching, and overall it’s a nice movie to look at (outside of the sex parts). Nicholson dazzles, as I thought he would, and it was interesting to see him pitted as a youngster. While this is pre-Cuckoo’s Nest, he still has that Nicholson charm about him that steals the show, and I found him to be the most entertaining part of the picture. Garfunkel was a close second, with his humorous recoiling when he would try to be any bit courageous in a situation, however that fades as time goes by. Overall, this is one of those hoity-toity “progressive thinking” flicks of the 70s that doesn’t really sink well with the moralistic audiences out there (me included). While it’s approach and dialogue seems modern, the story itself is too empty to be dug up for further viewing. FINAL SCORE: 58%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: