Title: A Touch of Class
Language: English, Spanish
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Melvin Frank
Music: John Cameron
Cinematography: Austin Dempster
Glenda Jackson’s second Oscar-winning picture, A TOUCH OF CLASS is a UK production, but directed by American writer-director Melvin Frank (fairly to say, it has to be his most accomplished work), an urban relationship caricature precisely broaches a modernised (feminist) view on an extramarital affair between an American married man Steve Blackburn (Segal) and a British divorcée Vickie Allessio (Jackson).
Steve is a successful business man, living in London with his wife Gloria (Neil) and two children, he is handsome, virile, a jock of baseball and golf, so after several chance meetings with the alluring but independent Vickie, all he wants is to woo her for a “quickie” during his lunch break. But Vickie is not a bimbo, although she jovially accepts Steve’s invitation and doesn’t mind a depressurising rumpy pumpy with a man she finds attractive, she demands to do it under better surroundings, with “a touch of class”. Intrigued, Steve arranges a trip to Málaga with her, to consummate their affair.
A chain of mishaps will occur even before their tryst, from Steve’s desperate attempt to persuade his wife from joining him for the so-called “business trip”, to the encounter with his friend Walter (Sorvino) in the airport, it is sheer magic how Frank and his co-writer Jack Rose can extract humour and laughter out of other people’s misfortunes without ever over-stuffing the gags (a negative example can be observed from Arthur Hiller’s Neil Simon-penned THE OUT-Of-TOWNERS, 1970) and run them smoothly with conviction and élan.
It is so true, a short trip is the best way to know about each other, Steve and Vickie clash vigorously, a tug-of-war of bedroom quarrel-fest chiding each other’s stereotyped characters, a.k.a. the libido-driven American man against the uppity British woman, Segal and Jackson spark off engagingly in their two-handers, eventually a woman’s abrasive sagacity prevails over a man’s immature grumble (that’s why Jackson is the mature one, since most of her points are right on the nose), which plausibly abides by the corny but enigmatic allure of the antithesis and creates an amazing aura of sexual magnetism, thus paves the way for the next step – their consensual arrangement of renting a flat together.
Back to London, the affair continues, Steve squeezes time from dog-walking, or sneaks out in the middle of a Beethoven concert and return, to conduct the carnal knowledge in their secret flat. Soon or later, as we expect, a “casual” relationship is slowly but inevitably consumed by the weary day-to-day dissatisfaction and in a cerebral move, after admitting that she is behaving like a wife, Vickie has the boldness to end it (although the movie considerably let Steve initiate the motive), after all her emotional baggage is the lighter one, whereas Steve is bogged down in his dither, and finds the courage to let it go, thanks to her, eventually.
Ingenious, brisk and without a whiff of patronising either sex, A TOUCH OF CLASS is a top-shelf comedy where Segal and Jackson are at the top of their games. Also, as a footnote it reminds us to why David Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945) is a must-see for everyone!