Michael Ritchie

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Smile Review


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The film references tend to term it "overlooked," but there are many of us who never forgot the wonderful comedy Smile from its theatrical release in 1975. '75 was a great year for movies, and it could be that Smile, like the fresh-faced competitors that populate it, just faced some really rough competition that year; maybe, in the company of Nashville, The Story of Adèle H., One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Grey Gardens, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and so on, this relatively modest beauty fades into the wallpaper. Maybe its comparatively adult wit would get lost among the frantic adolescence of screen comedy in any year. Whatever the reason, it's a pleasure to welcome back a really funny and distinctively American satire, now available on DVD.

Smile charts the progress of a round of finals for the fictitious Young American Miss pageant being held in Santa Rosa, California. The civic force behind this event is a community-minded car salesman named Big Bob Freelander (Bruce Dern), a yokel with good intentions, an abiding optimism, and an inexhaustible reserve of clichéd bromides about the importance of a positive attitude. Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon) acts as pageant coordinator and den mother to the young contestants; her husband Andy's suicidal tendencies are exacerbated, rather than quelled, by all the forced goodwill she radiates and by the pageant's general, bright, can-do American vibe. Big Bob, especially, finds this mystifying - what on Earth is there to be blue about in a land of such copious opportunity and beautiful young women such as ours? - and the best advice he can muster for his desperate friend is to "go out there and have some fun."

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