Review: 10

[Originally published in Movietone News 64-65, March 1980]

Blake Edwards’s new film is really the oldest story in the world, done up with refreshing wit and literacy and the slightest touch of softcore porn. 10 is a balanced and honest look at romantic love and the sexual world of the artist as a prematurely middle-aged man. As he turns 42, two crucial events befall song composer George Webber: the sweating-out of a brilliant new song, and the torturous collision between youthful sexual fantasy and a more settled midlife adulthood, into which George does not go gentle. George’s sweetheart, Samantha Taylor, is the still point of the film, to which he is continually drawn despite his efforts to pull away toward the self-indulgent freedom of his fantasies. As Samantha, Julie Andrews is at her most controlled and engaging—looking, in fact, pretty and sexy enough for one to resent the film’s reputation as a vehicle for Bo Derek. It’s a tribute, among other things, to Edwards’s wife, and a richly deserved one. And appropriately, there is more than a little Blake Edwards in George Webber. Dudley Moore plays him something like the type of bungling would-be romancer that Peter Sellers used to play in films like Only Two Can Play before he became a permanent Clouseau: a basically intelligent, stylish, graceful sort whose smallest action seems capable of setting off a chain reaction of disasters, mounting to catastrophic proportions. Whether dribbling coffee through a novocaine-frozen jaw, tumbling down a bluff behind his house, driving head-on into a police car, or knocking himself headlong into his own swimming pool, Moore is always up to the task, and his George Webber is sensitively drawn as the constant victim of a comedy of pain.

The comedy, in sitcom style, is based on failed communication. George and Samantha, after a misunderstanding, keep just missing each other by phone and by car, and often the whole future of their relationship seems to depend on a matter of a few seconds. Failed communication of this kind is a motif throughout the film, as evidenced in the contrapuntal plot of George’s lyricist (Robert Webber) and his homosexual lover, and in short takes like George, angry at his inability to reach Samantha, calling up his psychiatrist and hanging up on the man; and, of course, most obviously in George’s obsessive pursuit of Jenny (Bo Derek), whom he follows to Mexico without having ever met. George is a taker rather than a giver, a watcher rather than a doer—as is underscored by the twin telescopes that enable him and his libertine neighbor to exchange roles of watcher and watched. Hot on the trail of Jenny, George sets about getting information like the best private eyes of movie tradition, until he learns some details about ocean currents from a beach attendant, just in time to put his knowledge to use and rescue Jenny’s young husband. Not having taken the hint from the endless streak of major and minor disasters that attend his every effort to pursue, or even to glimpse, the lovely Jenny, George dares to bridge the gap at last between the world he lives in and the world he watches. What he finds is that he and Jenny, like him and his neighbor at the other end of the telescope, represent hopelessly different worlds and different standards. When George finally takes the plunge, shifting from watcher to doer, he makes certain that he does so in the right world, his own. His neighbor abandons the telescope just a moment too soon to see the new George, moaning, “I give him X-rated entertainment and he gives me PG! I show him mine, but he won’t show me his!” It is we—Blake Edwards’s audience—who get to watch, through the telescope, the changed George Webber, initiating, to the tune of Ravel’s (and Jenny’s) Boléro, the seduction of a befuddled but delighted Samantha. Before they drop out of sight, what we witness is their final acceptance of each other, of their own world, of middle age and its romantic possibilities—and Blake Edwards’s triumphant reveling in the acceptance.

© 1980 Robert C. Cumbow

10
Screenplay and direction: Blake Edwards. Cinematography: Frank Stanley. Production design: Rodger Maus. Stunt coordination: Dick Crockett. Editing: Ralph E. Winters. Music: Henry Mancini; lyrics: Robert Wells, Carol Bayer Sager.
The players: Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Robert Webber, Bo Derek, Dee Wallace, Brian Dennehy, Sam Jones, Max Showalter, James Noble, Walter George Alton, Don Calfa.

A pdf of the original issue can be found here.