Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

London Suite


(TV movie) Neil Simon. America’s wittiest living playwright, no question, and one of the funniest of all time. Barefoot in the Park. The Sunshine Boys. Last of the Red Hot Lovers. The Goodbye Girl. Biloxi Blues. And the two that preceded this: Plaza Suite, in New York, California Suite, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Both good comedies. Now this one, at the Grosvenor in London. How bad could it be?

Frickin’ awful, that’s how bad. And he has no one to blame but himself, because he wrote the screenplay for this made-for-TV adaptation of his own four-act play.

Let me amend that a little. It is possible that some other actors could have at least put a few laughs into this corpse. After all, it was nominated for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play by some organization I’ve never heard of, and it ran for 169 performances. (But Off-Broadway? Doesn’t Neil Simon usually command the best theaters, solidly on the Great White Way?) Just barely possible. But not with the cast they had. Almost everyone was badly miscast.

I’m no fan of Kelsey Grammer. He has no visible talent that I can see. I am a fan of Patricia Clarkson, but whose bright idea was it to cast them as British? Listen, and I will tell you a great truth: Except for Meryl Streep, Americans are terrible at accents! I don’t know why, but even my American ear can tell when it’s all wrong. Think of Dick Van Dyke as a Cockney in Mary Poppins, or Julia Roberts in Mary Reilly. Then there is Richard Mulligan (Custer in {{Little Big Man) as a Scotsman. They must have been laughing themselves sick in Glasgow. Or throwing themselves into the River Clyde, more likely.

But none of it can compare to the horror of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards. Julia L-D is tasked with playing one of the most thoroughly dislikable characters I’ve ever run across. She is the epitome of the crazy, entitled, ugly American abroad. The Londoners she meets are invariably polite to her, and I wanted to smack her across the face.

Since I never watched Seinfeld, I’ll have to take your word for it that Michael Richards was funny on that show. Everyone says so. All I really know about him is that he lost his shit one night and shouted out Fuck you, nigger! at the Laugh Factory, and thus torpedoed his career. Here he plays the kind of character that Jack Lemmon could really go to town with: The over-excitable, over-planning, super-neurotic control freak like in The Odd Couple or The Out-of-Towners. He spends almost the whole show supine, with his back thrown out. That part of the play was called The Man on the Floor, unsurprisingly.

This was one of the last times Madeleine Kahn worked before her untimely death from ovarian cancer. Lord, I miss her. She was one of the funniest women who ever lived. She is given almost nothing to do here, except shop for shoes. That’s how lame this movie is.