By Melissa Antoinette Garza
This is one film that I really wish I watched with my mom. There are certain movies that we share affection for. TO SIR WITH LOVE (1967), THE GRADUATE (1967) and HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971) are just a few of the flicks I remember watching as a kid with my mom in the living room of my childhood home.
Despite being born in 1979, I always felt a kinship to movies before my time. That said, this was my first introduction to TAKE A GIRL LIKE YOU (1969). I found it as I was looking up anything and everything Oliver Reed. I adore the man. Even when he was a drunk ass in interviews, there was always something endearing about him. He was a man’s man, a British Marlon Brando, a genuine brawler and tough guy, but with a softness underneath. By some, he was called a chauvinist or an anti-feminist. He was an old-school gent born in 1938. He was a showman who wanted to entertain the world, and he succeeded. He died too young, but his legacy lives on.
TAKE A GIRL LIKE YOU is most certainly a movie that wouldn’t be made today. It was a daring flick masqueraded as a romantic comedy. It starts as Jenny (Hayley Mills) moves into a home owned by a perverted politician Dick Thompson (John Bird) and his angry, disillusioned wife, Martha (Sheila Hancock). Martha knows that Dick gets drunk and becomes forceful with all the female lodgers. She actually warns them in Dick’s presence, but it doesn’t stop his rape-y, perv way.
Jenny moved there because she was hired as a teacher. It is at the Thompson household that she meets graphics professor Patrick (Oliver Reed). Patrick chases women and beds them with ease. When he sees Jenny, he moves in quick.
She agrees to go on a date with him and even goes to his place afterward for a cup of coffee. He wants to have sex with her, but she refuses. She admits to being a virgin which shocks Patrick. Throughout the movie, he attempts to get her into bed and the duo break-up and make-up. He tells her that virginity doesn’t mean anything and when Mr. Right comes along it won’t matter if she’s had sex. Still, she refuses to go forward with it.
The conclusion is sad, dramatic, ironic and funny all at the same time. Stop reading here if you don’t want it spoiled.
Jenny finally agrees to sleep with Patrick, but he can’t keep his mouth shut. He tells his douche-bag friend that he and Jenny have decided to have sex on Saturday. The scumbag friend uses it to his advantage and reveals to Jenny that Patrick told him. He seduces her in a creepy scene where she’s crying.
Patrick walks in on them afterwards. He’s furious. He wants to believe that she slept with him because she was drunk or brainwashed, but none of that’s the case. Jenny reveals that she was upset that he had spread around they were going to sleep together and then tells him that she loves him.
Patrick is now faced with all the philosophical reasons he told Jenny why being a virgin is no big deal. Here he was, Mr. Right and he did care. Some may argue that they were in a relationship and she cheated, but he had done that numerous times. This was different and in the end, he loved her back. He gets in his car and chases after her leaving the viewer to gather that this brief encounter with the scumbag won’t stop the two from ending up happily ever after.
Today, this movie would probably be called sexist or some would declare it made light of the women’s movement. Quite the contrary, this movie takes two sides of an issue (sexual exploration and abstinence) and with a comedic tone examines the perils and benefits of both.
Also, Dick does end up getting what’s coming to him. Martha leaves him and despite other lodgers calling her disloyal she jumps in a cab and doesn’t look back. She was a sad character. At one point, Jenny is accosted by a drunk Dick, and Martha walks in. Jenny tells her that Dick nearly raped her at which point Martha goes on an interesting tirade. She tells Jenny that Dick wouldn’t know what to do and not to make a big deal of it. She then goes on to say that she and Dick hadn’t had sex in a long time. Martha knew she was married to a scoundrel, but couldn’t find the courage to leave until the end.
I highly recommend this film. The acting is amazing. Reed and Mills have wonderful chemistry together. Despite Patrick being a louse at times, he does have an irresistible charm. Even when he honestly admits that he’s a “bastard,” Jenny can’t help but go out with him.
It’s a fun movie that is much deeper than what’s on the surface.
Scared Stiff Rating: 8/10