Great comedies, like any films, come and go. And thus, some come out at the wrong time, are overshadowed by similar films, or get lost in a specific movement. Here are 10 great unseen comedies that you may have missed.
1. Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978) – Bertrand Blier
A master at French comedy of manners with his own style and intent, Blier created a film that is as zany as it sounds. The film revolves around a husband finding a lover for his unsatisfied and depressed wife, who only wants to have the baby of a 13-year-old math prodigy. And yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.
Starring Carole Laure and Blier regulars Gerard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere, the film progresses with rapid comedic verbosity as well as physical comedy in pure French fashion. It can be described as a romantic comedy, a comedy of manners, or a complete farce; regardless, it’s a smartly observed and paced comedy that can’t leave you unsmiling.
The characters as well as Blier’s assured script and direction make you want to rewatch the film immediately or seek out all of his other work, which surely won’t disappoint. Hence the title, you might some to wipe the laughter of tears away for these three adult and one adolescent characters.
2. All At Sea (1957) – Charles Frend
An Ealing Studios comedy starring Alec Guinness can’t go wrong. Despite being the last film made together under the studio banner, Guinness shines in multiple performances. We first see him in Frend’s film as an aloof captain in charge of a pier in modern-day Britain. Told in flashbacks where Guinness plays his brave and courageous relatives, we truly see the wonderful performance he has given.
He is no stranger to playing multiple characters in an Ealing comedy, but here we see the different types of comedy that takes place. For example, from the first outing as a caveman sailor of sorts, then to the finale of Guinness’ Captain William Horatio Ambrose as he finally achieves the worth of his ancestors, literally and metaphorically.
The film is certainly a great companion to “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” “The Lavender Hill Mob” and “The Ladykillers,” but this Frend film belongs up there as well.
3. 2 Days in Paris (2007) – Julie Delpy
Delpy has proven time and again that she is a comedic actress who plays neurotic characters that would fit happily in a Woody Allen film, and she knows how to direct it. It is the first of two films, with the sequel being “2 Days in New York”; she and Adam Goldberg are a couple struggling with their relationship adrift over two days in Paris.
Over the course of the film, we see the differences between American tourists and local Parisians, but it’s fast paced and dialogue-heavy with some gags, and with the chemistry between the two leads we feel this comedy. It’s the glances and awkward exchanges that are just too relatable with countless run-ins with ex-boyfriends.
It definitely feels like part of that two-hander with the insane family overwhelming the boyfriend, but it’s smartly written and terrifically performed, and a great antithesis to some of the other walks around Paris.
4. Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) – Paul Mazursky
Originally adapted by Jean Renoir for “Boudu Saved From Downing,” Mazurksy brings his own wit, a battle of the sexes, and a world to the richness of Beverly Hills circa 1986. With a great cast of characters featuring Richard Dreyfuss, Nick Nolte, and Bette Midler, with Mazursky at the helm, it’s a great comedy about familial relationships within the backdrop of a specific world.
From the scene where Dreyfuss saves Nolte’s suicidal homeless man, we start to see the relationship form and how these characters will grow on each other over the course of the film. However, it’s all the moments in between of Dreyfuss trying to cheat in the middle of the night with the maid, Nolte allowing other homeless men to interrupt their Beverly Hills lunch, the crashing of a party in these differing worlds, or even Little Richard that cement this social comedy.
Mazursky knows how to comment on the changing times and does so here with great vibrant characters, without ever losing sight of the character-driven film.
5. It Happened in LA (2017) – Michelle Morgan
A film that Whit Stillman would be proud of, Morgan’s debut focuses on a bunch of thirtysomethings coming to terms with the status of their relationships. It’s definitely a comedy of manners with a precise comedic verbosity for all the situations it entails.
As the ensemble film plays out, boyfriends and girlfriends, married couples and fiancés all bicker over the perfect status of a couple. Obviously things don’t go according to plan, but the style and precise wit make this film stand out. All of the actors are so on point, especially Morgan acting in her debut as well, with no false notes. It requires the audience to be smart and up to par to not miss a beat within the dialogue.
It can be considered a cult film, or one that focuses on the demographic of a verbose fast-paced comedy for adults; regardless, with the visual motifs and precise characters, it’s a comedy that is hard to ignore.