George Webber is miserable. A British expatriate living in luxury in endlessly sunny California he’s just turned 42 and somehow feels “betrayed”. An accomplished, middle of the road songwriter (he’s won 4 Academy Awards and apparently hates The White Album), his ongoing relationship with popular recording artist and actress Samantha Taylor, a divorced single mom, bores him. Not helping matters is his next door neighbour. Through his outdoor telescope, a jealous George watches him constantly enjoy the pleasures of his often naked & enthusiastically eager female companions. He feels very left out.
Then, one afternoon, while driving away in his fancy car from the residence of his openly gay songwriting partner after a composing session, he spots someone at a traffic stop. Sitting in the back seat of a limosine, she’s a vision in her wedding gown. They lock eyes. They stare at each other for a lingering moment, no hint of prior recognition, then she looks away. The limo drives off. Stunned, George follows the limo.
His new distraction causes him to crash head on with a parked police car. Thank goodness the cop who asks for his expired licence and non-existent registration is exceedingly calm and reasonable. (Then again, he is a rich & famous white guy.) After being ordered to go get a lawyer and drive away, George instead parks his now rickety-sounding vehicle and sneaks into the Catholic church where the beautiful mystery woman from the limo is getting married. Yeah, this isn’t stalking at all.
While hiding during the ceremony, a bumble bee suddenly scoots up his nose and his cover is blown. But his new found obsession with the now married mystery woman lives on.
Despite being played by British comedian Dudley Moore, George, the hero of Blake Edwards’ “10”, is hardly sympathetic. In fact, he’s a homophobic sexist who lives such an enviable life you truly wonder what he’s so depressed about. His motives for overcoming his dark thoughts are hardly pure. I mean Julie Andrews, who plays his aforementioned, long suffering gal pal, is rather lovely, smart and loyal. She understandably wonders why he’s more interested in being a voyeur than pleasuring her. Why isn’t she enough for him?
After the two have a contentious argument over the definition of the word “broad” (Sam says it’s always used negatively against women, George strongly disagrees (he kinda has a point, actually)), they play a ridiculously long game of phone tag. Before that, though, George visits the mystery woman’s priest who tells him her name after making him giggle with an impromptu organ performance. (George’s crappy “elevator music” isn’t much better, really.) He then books an appointment with her father, a dentist who proceeds to wreak havoc on his previously undetected 6 cavities. (Like me, George hadn’t had a check-up in a while. I had 2 cavities myself last year.)
Even though we learn that Jenny (the mysterious Bo Derek in her famous beads and slow motion beach runs) and her new husband (her hunky live-in lover for the past two years she decided to marry because daddy dentist is “to the right of Attila The Hun”) are honeymooning in the Virgin Islands, a drunken George high on tooth meds instead books a flight to Mexico where he still ends up running into them. Or maybe I misheard because I’m an anti-dentite?
For a depressed drunk in the middle of a phony mid-life crisis the diminutive one somehow has no trouble attracting beautiful women. While chatting up friendly barman Don (a slimmer Brian Dennehy in a pre-stardom role) he encounters Mary (the exquisite Dee Wallace Stone) who he proceeds to disappoint sexually by not being fully aroused. Even after guzzling all those double Brandies it still seems preposterous the desperate George wouldn’t be all ready to go when Mary is such a goddamn fox (I think she’s even hotter than Jenny) and he’s so starved for dangerous sex. The fact that this has happened to her before is also puzzling. Move to Canada, Miss Stone.
Jenny is a different story. After a series of rather convenient events takes place George inevitably ends up on a romantic date with her. They go to dinner, they slow dance, they even take a late night stroll on the beach. And then, it’s back to her honeymoon suite where she insists they have sex to Bolero. (Her stepmother’s brother turned her on to the idea, literally.) When George takes his sweet ass time getting started, Jenny insists he start the song over from the top. (What is she, Sheldon Cooper?) Only a seductress like Bo Derek could get away with such an annoying request. (Honestly, who needs a soundtrack to fuck? I certainly don’t, although it’s been a decade when I actually partook. I’ve said too much.)
It is during the darkly lit sex scene that George’s fantasy completely unravels. To the audience, Jenny’s a supremely comfortable, intelligent, polyamorous goddess with not a hint of insecurity, a warm, open-minded woman worth getting close to. To George, she’s a fraud who’s already cheating on her husband after only a week of marriage. (There’s a weird moment where the husband actually calls Jenny during the sex scene (he’s in the hospital recovering from a nasty sunburn after falling asleep on a surfboard floating out on the ocean) and hands the phone over to George. As Pauly D would sing-say, “Awkward!”)
George’s blatant hypocrisy (he’s not exactly monogamous, either) after putting himself in this situation, one he very much wanted to have happen in the first place, is absolutely bewildering. Throughout the entire film, he is completely convinced that a fling with her is the solution to his depression, that an intense sexual encounter will cure his middle-age malaise. However, while in the middle of achieving this impossible dream, he still isn’t satisfied. (How picky can he be?) Suddenly afflicted with a conscience, not only is this not believable, it’s downright insulting.
Back home in California, Sam privately bemoans her frustrating love life with George’s songwriting partner Hugh (Robert Webber who’s going through his own personal problems) which also affects her job singing in a travelling stage show. (She’s understandably cranky after their “broad” fight.) Meanwhile, during one moment of weakness in his room in that Mexican resort, George softly pleads out loud for his lady to “rescue” him. (This is before he hooks up with Jenny.) Get off your pity pot and act like a man, Nancy.
It’s inevitable that a film like “10” would feel so dated today. (Dig Moore’s white boy afro.) Released in 1979, the most sophisticated technology we see is George’s 8-track player in his car. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the way George treats Hugh. He casually addresses him as a “fag” during one of their songwriting sessions. (Cringy.) He wonders out loud if Hugh’s much younger lover is using him for his fame and money which causes a rift to develop between the two. (What a little shit disturber he is ruining an old man’s happiness like that.) During a shrink appointment, he talks about trading places with him as some kind of punishment.
And then there’s the way he treats women. Clearly not interested in true intimacy with Sam, he would much rather engage in empty sexual encounters with more carefree women half his age. (He does end up attending one of his neighbour’s frequent sex parties but gets caught before anything happens. An admittedly funny moment.) But when they have actual intelligence and confidence like Jenny, he becomes very judgmental. It’s hard to know exactly what he’s objecting to: the fact that Jenny’s in a happy, open marriage (if her husband banged someone else she would approve if it made him happy) or that she’s completely at peace with it, something the insecure pianist wishes for himself but is deeply unafraid to pursue.
George’s sexism and homophobia can’t be easily excused no matter how much Sam loves him despite her numerous, well stated reservations, not to mention the era this film was made in. And so when the predictable happens, you wonder if there will ever be any consequences for his boorish behaviour.
“10” isn’t without its comedic merits. The running gag involving George telescope peeping at his horny neighbour’s daily antics provides almost all of the few laughs this overrated comedy generates, the biggest one coming in the final scene when he gets fed up with George not providing him and his many companions with the same R-rated entertainment he’s been supplying him with on a daily basis. When Sam’s son Josh tells George to piss off on the phone, that’s funny, too. Andrews gets off a funny throwaway line during one of her stage show rehearsals.
But Dudley Moore’s frequently unamusing physical gags, pratfalls and limp punchlines, which set the tone for this rather dreary, dishonest, overlong film, are far too dominant. Curiously, despite being the protagonist, he is the least interesting character. I was far more fascinated by Derek and George’s horny neighbour. Too bad neither of them got their own spin-off movie.
In the end, it’s hard to warrant much sympathy or support for an extremely privileged, highly acclaimed, white songwriter with plenty of romantic options who doesn’t respect gays or women and ultimately settles for an unexciting relationship he never thought was worthwhile to begin with.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 7, 2015