Natalie Wood And George Segal Are ‘The Last Married Couple In America’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

When your couple friends start breaking up, it’s always the football game that suffers. For Mari (Natalie Wood) and Jeff (George Segal) in Gilbert Cabe’s The Last Married Couple in America, their regular football game is almost down to two players. While it hasn’t been lost on them that so many of their friends are getting divorced lately, Mari and Jeff are still happily married, but the stress is getting to them. If they missed the signs in their friends’ marriages, who’s to say their marriage won’t be next? And while the term, FOMO, didn’t exist in the ‘80s, what’s being missed out on in their case is divorce.

Film historian, Lee Gambin, provides the commentary track for Kino Lorber’s release and one of the great points he makes is that Last Married Couple marks a change from all of the films where marriage is the end goal. Here, instead of marriage being pushed, Mari and Jeff are the ones being forced to defend themselves for sticking together (whereas usually it’s the single person who has to defend their single-ness).

While the very first scene in the movie involves a bit of cringe humor where a married man cups a feel and everyone laughs it off, that’s not what Last Married Couple is overall. The ensemble cast is terrific, and John Herman Shaners screenplay gives them a chance to shine, too, from the actress (Jan Jorden) who only appears in one scene to nag Mari and Jeff about working the snack bar, to the actress who plays Jeff’s secretary (Shari Summers). They may not be big roles, but they could’ve been faceless roles and instead they register.

Richard Benjamin is wonderful as Jeff’s misery loves company pal, Merv, while Valerie Harper should be despicable and yet it’s not even a love to hate situation. Somehow Harper makes it impossible to hold Barbara accountable for her actions, even though they’re terrible.

Sometimes the film tries a little too hard to be edgy, like when Jeff and Mari discuss a vagina tightening in the stands at a kids soccer game. Only in the movies would that not earn them some looks, but then you have Jeff and Merv discussing their pee streams in a restaurant and it’s completely believable.

The real reason the film works, though, is because it doesn’t just show a bickering couple. Often movies pick up on a couple when they’ve reached their breaking point and the rest of the movie is about whether they’ll reconcile but Mari and Jeff start the film strong. By not skipping over the good times, Cabe makes the rough times even rougher because the audience is given time to invest in their relationship. Take the scene when Jeff comes home for lunch expecting one thing and finds an upset Mari instead. There’s so much going on in that scene (like why Jeff came home in the first place) but in the moment all that matters is Segal and Wood’s chemistry. The rest is temporarily dropped, and that takes some amazing acting to pull off.

From grappling with how honest a couple should be with each other, to giving Mari and Jeff a past (instead of making out like everything was rosy up until now), The Last Married Couple is both a time capsule and relevant to this day.

The Last Married Couple in America is available on Blu-Ray now from Kino Lorber.

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