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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Husbands”

(Sony. 1970/2009. 2 hours, 21 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual situations, language, drunkenness, and brief domestic violence. Directed by John Cassavetes.) Ben Gazzara, John Cassavetes, Peter Falk, Jenny Runacre, Jenny Lee Wright.

Four married, middle-class New York men are close pals and facing 40; three of them start to unravel when one unexpectedly dies. Cassavetes (who died in 1989) was an actor/writer/director who is considered one of the fathers of American independent movies. (As an actor his most high-profile role was as Mia Farrow’s husband in Rosemary’s Baby.) His actress-wife, Gena Rowlands, and many of his close-knit circle of friends (including Gazzara and Falk) would often appear in his films. Husbands (aptly named, as the wives never appear) is one of his more self-indulgent efforts.

Granted, in this Brokeback Mountain era we now live in, it’s easy to forget that a movie where men explore their feelings was pretty radical 40 years ago. However, too many scenes seem improvised, as if Cassavetes set up the camera and said, “Okay guys, let’s do this drunk scene in a bar.” Then he would let the camera run for 20 or 30 minutes, and then take nothing out (uh, John? Edit something?). Things pick up a bit when our Three Musketeers take an impromptu trip to London, for a brief walk on the wild side. Gazzara’s clearly the alpha male here, and he’s the most watchable. Falk wasn’t always Columbo, but somehow he was always Falk (not necessarily a bad thing). If nothing else, Husbands might prompt you to watch better Cassavetes films such as Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, or The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (which several people, including Cassavetes’ director son Nick, keep threatening to remake).