Mike Nichols’ period farce, “The Fortune,” is an artistic and commercial misfire. Neither the director nor his writer or stars are able to find the right tone for this wannabe offbeat and quirk comedy.
It’s too bad, because it’s the first teaming of two major stars of the 1970s: Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson; the second partnership, in the 1981 Oscar-winning “Red,” is far more successful.
Set in the 1920s, the tale starts promisingly as a sardonic comedy about a bizarre ménage-à-trois, Beatty, as the sleazy lounge lizard, and Nicholson, as the halfwit accomplice, conspire to run away with an heiress (played by stage actress Stockard Channing).
They try to fly out West incognito, but Nicholson’s Oscar keeps drawing attention to himself and his partner. Once in California, the movie loses energy and steam and becomes rather static, a work composed of a seriess of glossy sight gags and unfunny verbal exchanges.
Both stars deviate from their established screen images by spoofing them, but for the most part, their effors are inane.
The feature’s deliberate pacing and self-consciousness make things worse. It’sthe kind of movie experience at the of which you ask yourself: Is that all there is to it?
It’s worth noting that the movie was a he artistic and commercial flop, after which Mike Nichols went back to the Broaday stage and did not direct any movie until 1983, when he made the worthy biopic “Silkwood” with Meryl Streep.
Most of Nichols’ directorial touches are miscalculated, at least for what’s supposed to be a fast-moving farce. Overall, this kind of material just calls attention to Nichols tendency to make slick, superficial movies when he is not challenged by the texts.
I have not read Adrien Joyce’s script, but it strikes me as being potentially funny—in the hands of another director.