Ep 15: Cactus Flower

Get the podcast: Listen here at PopD | Go to iTunes

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Lucy says: # Pops ~ Lucy’s rating breakdown: Structure: 3, Comedy: 5, Romance: 2

Jenny says: # Pops ~ Jenny’s rating breakdown: Structure: 3, Comedy: 5, Romance: 2

Blog Poll Rating: TBD

Movie Info:

Release Date: December 16, 1969 Director: Gene Saks Writers: I.A.L. Diamond. More info at IMDb.

18 responses to “Ep 15: Cactus Flower”

  1. when i first downloaded the podcast it was around an hour. then as i listened it cut off mid-sentence at around 47 mins. i think darth vader took over iTunes:)

  2. (-: I’m going to try and listen to the podcast today. Structure 3 and Romance 2? I want to hear why.

    By my reckoning (and I am vastly amused by this), there were four men, two women, and SEVEN on-screen romance connections with two off-screen romance connections. Stephanie wins the Most Swingingest Award for having romantic connections with Julian,?Igor, Sr. Chavez, Harvey — oh yeah, and that guy who broke her heart, and the married guy she dated for a long time. Up the off-screen romances to four.

    Something like that should have looked like a Tinker Toy cannister, but they brought it off.

    As far as warm and fuzzy feelings at the end, Toni and Igor get them . . . although, maybe not as many as if it were a straight romance. I was one of the few who could forgive Julian, but I think that’s my weird romantic chemistry, and the fact that I think I could forgive Walter Matthau for almost anything up to an STD.

    (-: Look forward to the podcast!

  3. This sounds a bit like My Best Friend’s Wedding, where I couldn’t respect Julia Whosis for trying to break up her best friend’s wedding because she suddenly couldn’t bear that he was happy with someone else.

  4. Stephanie – sometimes this happens with iTunes, and I never know why. Here’s what you do:

    Unsubscribe to PopD. You won’t lose anything you’ve downloaded.

    Delete #15 and throw original file in the trash/recycle bin when iTunes prompts.

    Resubscribe; the latest episode will re-download.

    I wonder if there’s a better way to do this in the new iTunes? I’ll research it, but for now, this should work.

  5. Micki wrote:

    I was one of the few who could forgive Julian, but I think that’s my weird romantic chemistry, and the fact that I think I could forgive Walter Matthau for almost anything up to an STD.

    Micki – have you seen A New Leaf? Go watch that, and report back. 🙂

  6. I haven’t watched this in forever, but do remember something screwy about the romance. Enjoyable but not right. Looking forward to the podcast so you can remind me of it.

  7. @Lucy: I’ve looked for A New Leaf, but it’s just not available here. (-: I have to say, I’m doubly curious, now that you think Walter is a sociopath in it. I’m devoting an awful lot of brain time lately to my very strange passion for Walter Matthau . . . .

    Good podcast. I liked the idea that Julian was the Master of the Universe, constantly defeated by these good people. Although, he does get his goodie in the end. Another a-ha moment: “(Watch him?) build lie upon lie without any motivation beyond selfishness.” OK, I can see that as a flaw (in hindsight).

    I have a question for y’all: what are some interesting ways to complicate a plot if there are no lies?

    It’s very interesting that all the men are cartoons in this movie, while the women are very full of character. Is *that* a product of the times? Who wrote this movie, anyway? I think in Bringing Up Baby, both are cartoons. Was there one where the men were well defined, but the women were kind of props? Perhaps . . . the one with Billie Holiday? I mean she was GREAT, but she was still very cartoonish. Then again, so was William Holden.

    I think this is a terrible sin against men . . . so many media representations show them as concerned only with their work, and their cars, and their garages, and a great set of boobs, that it’s very easy for women to buy into that. To not make their men think, or let them be emotional 12-year-olds, because everyone knows, “oh, boys will be boys.”

    Although, when there’s a long silence, and I ask my husband, “What are you thinking?” he invariably answers, “Nothing.” So . . . maybe men are cartoons after all?

    (-: Jking, can’t be true. Men are primarily responsible for most of the great literature, movies, music, government, etc in the world, so it can’t be true. What’s up here?

    Sorry, went off the deep end. I should stick to the movies.

  8. I really enjoyed the podcast. Lots of the recurring ideas in the duscussion are starting to bring my thoughts about romantic comedy into focus.

    One question – as a non-writer I’m not sure I understand the meaning of “broke the protagonist. ” Sorry if I missed the definition in the podcast.

    I agree with your ratings for Cactus Flower. It was definitely a far stronger comedy than romance. The writing is so sharp in this and I’m a sucker for snappy dialogue. While that makes it fun to watch neither of the romances leave me with that vicarious warm happy glow.

  9. Micki, your comment reminded me of something I meant to talk about – you said “It’s very interesting that all the men are cartoons in this movie, while the women are very full of character. Is *that* a product of the times?”

    My somewhat cynical take on this is from a feminist perspective. Women are acknowledged to be smarter and better people which is supposed to distract from the fact that men have so much more power in the society. This attitude fits with my memory of the times pretty much. And I agree with you, it doesn’t do much service to men or women to depict men so cartoonishly.

  10. Did you see that recent Atlantic that tried to posit women were taking over the world? And, they pointed out themselves, there were about three women involved in that issue . . . .

    I think any art needs to refine a personality down — to portray people in all their glory and quirks is actually pretty distracting. But, there’s a difference between 2-D and 3-D (and real people, who are in the fifth dimension or maybe the twilight zone (-:). Any art is going to reduce this to a few understandable brush strokes. But . . . there’s a difference between the brushstrokes of a Neolithic artist and the unpracticed strokes of someone who doesn’t know where the stroke has to go . . . .

  11. @Lucy – thanks for the tips re: the podcast. Didn’t work but I did get to listen to the end by going directly from here. I’ll worry about iTunes later.

    Lucy/ Jenny – thank YOU BOTH for figuring out who this movie belonged to. I was so confused. I got the cactus flower [Stephanie]/ Daisy [Toni] thing and then couldn’t figure out why Toni was with Julian – yada yada. The lies kept derailing me.

    One thing that I kept coming back to and likely I’ve gone off the rails is that it sometimes felt like a farce or something [Toni asking to meet the wife, wanting to make sure the kids were okay, etc] wrapped or at the core of a romance [Julian and Stephanie]. The problem was the farce was driving the story, not the romance.

    Now, I too am curious about New Leaf. I did mention I also watched First Monday In October to counter balance this because he’s a much better character in that and just great writing.

  12. @Micki — I got shot at work the other day.
    By an engineer who had meant to aim his nerf machine gun at another engineer, but still. Men are boys.
    90% of my co-workers are men, most of them have a Ph.D in Genius and most of them spend a lot of time discussing deeply convoluted topics involving lots of diagrams and TLAs. Then they hop on one of the scooters (no, not kidding) and scoot down the hall to their next meeting.
    I’ve never seen /any/ of my female co-workers use the scooters or bring nerf guns to work. Men are still boys at heart; I’m not sure women are still girls at heart. (Possibly we’re all still young and perky though?)

    That said, I still think the cartoonish representation of characters is lazy writing. If the author could throw in even /one/ opposing trait, it would give these two-dimensional characters a bit of shading.

  13. I wonder if the cartoonish quality we are talking about really serves the comedy in this case. Julian begins the movie as the Master of his Universe. He is the guy with all of the power. We laugh at his struggles at the hands of Toni & Stephanie – which are ultimately due to the careless way he has wielded his power with lies and taking their place in his life for granted. It is very satisfying to us to see him paid back for treating these nice women unfairly. Our trouble with him as a character comes if we don’t think he has suffered enough, lost enough power to become more relateable and sympathetic.. If he we think he has earned Stephanie then we are ok with him as the hero of the story. If not, then we aren’t satisfied and he has really just been the temporary focus of the comedy more than a hero we can root for.

    I think I may have accidently answered my own earlier question about Breaking the Protagonist there – right?

  14. I second whoever it was in the other post that rooted for a Toni/Stephanie/Igor threesome.

    Yeah, whose movie is this? I wouldn’t have guessed it was Ingrid’s (except for the title drop plot) for most of the movie. And you can’t root for her to end up with the ass that she ends up with. Mostly I just waited for Toni to get with Igor already.

  15. @Merry: I think I might be a little boy at heart, because I wish I had a scooter . . . . Not so crazy about the guns, although I know of a lot of women who love them.

    The “whose movie is it” question kind of worries me. This movie is a bit ambiguous. Stephanie is the heart, Julian is the catalyst and the one who makes everything happen. I would say Julian changes the most — he goes from loving the moment to realizing his love for Stephanie, and he goes from being a confirmed bachelor to someone who wants to get married (albeit, to two women in one week . . . ).

    However, this isn’t just a movie about the laffs. There are some really basic human ideas at the bottom of it, and all the laughs come from those things. Bringing Up Baby — I really didn’t care about the characters. Cactus Flower — I did care about the women, and it felt right that Julian and Stephanie got together at the end.

    BTW, is this a new meme for the era? The switcheroo romance? I can’t believe it is, but then again, I can’t think of an earlier literary example (well, except for some of Georgette Heyer’s works — Jenny mentioned that one, right? Cotillion?) Are there any movies that exploited that?

  16. I had that problem, too. I thought it was great that they were trying something different, but an awful, withholding, selfish heroine was not a good way to go.

  17. I’m even more confused about this movie after somebody said the protagonist’s goals drive the action. ‘Cause Toni drives the action–she wants to be able to marry Julian without guilt, and every time Julian’s got her latest attempt covered with his latest REaction (as opposed to action), she comes up with a new wrinkle. But Toni’s definitely not the protagonist. Catalyst? Given that Julian’s ostensible goal is to marry Toni so she won’t kill herself and real goal seems to be to keep her as his mistress, it gets complicated.

    As for who the movie belongs to… I’m imagining a Julian played differently (yeah, I know, I keep doing that) with body language and so on to indicate just a hint of awareness that what he’s doing is dodgy–he still chooses the lie but at least he hesitates–THAT Julian owns the movie. This one doesn’t.