Husbands, John Cassavetes, 131mins (12A)

Starring: Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk

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The Independent Culture

John Cassavetes's 1970 drama of midlife crisis is painful to watch, though not in the way that its maker intends. Three married suburbanites from New York – played by Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk – attend the funeral of a friend, then go on an almighty bender to drown their grief.

The idea is that no amount of singing, joshing, bullying and boozing can assuage the fear of mortality that grips them. But Cassavetes's loose, improvised method runs away with him; he wildly overindulges his trio of husbands, whose drunken, abrasive patter isn't nearly as funny as they think.

Their actual voices become monotonous. Halfway through, it switches to rain-lashed London, where they stink up a casino with their loud-mouthed bonhomie and party in their hotel suite with some young women. One or two moments achieve a lost poignancy, like the scene in which Gazzara croons "Dancing in the Dark", and a British actress, Jenny Runacre, is convincingly vulnerable as a blonde floozie Cassavetes tries to romance. But it hardly compensates for all the boorish, jabbering talk and sour moodiness. Pauline Kael, reviewing the film at the time, wrote, "I think I gave my all by sitting through it." I know how she felt.