Film: The Arrangement

Sometimes the only thing I want out of an old movie is to have never seen or heard of it. Elia Kazan’s The Arrangement (1969) certainly clears that low bar, and while I’d be hard pressed to say I liked it, it does possess vaguely interesting elements. Kirk Douglas stars as Eddie Anderson, a successful advertising executive who’s got it all: a solid job, an opulent mansion, a loving wife. He’s also desperately unhappy, considering himself a sellout for benefitting from a deceptive ad campaign to sell “clean” cigarettes. His despondency leads to a psychological breakdown and failed suicide attempt. When he finally comes out of his funk, it triggers an explosive rift with his long-suffering wife Florence (Deborah Kerr), who finally confronts him about a torrid affair he had with a younger work colleague named Gwen (Faye Dunaway).

The Arrangement starts intriguingly enough, its technicolor trappings laced with quirky flourishes that tease out the reasons for Eddie’s unstable mental state. Unfortunately, the welcome mat wears out rather quickly, as the film gradually reveals itself as little more than a talky, falsely profound midlife-crisis drama. Douglas, Dunaway, and Kerr give it their all, at least, and Kazan occasionally spices up the conventional look of the film with dreamy cuts and flights of fancy. But overall this one doesn’t make much of an impact.

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