Grinning while perched on an Alfa Romeo, with one long index finger inserted under her chin, Goldie Hawn appears as a coy, oversized hood ornament in the understandably desperate ads for "Lovers and Liars," an obscure lemon of a romantic comedy made in Italy two years ago. No form of distraction could ultimately hide the fact that this vehicle is in hapless condition under the hood.
The ad copy suggests a sequel to Goldie's current hit, the slightly maddening "Private Benjamin": "They've discharged Private Goldie and she's at it again." As a matter of fact, "Lovers and Liars" was made before "Private Benjamin" and released in Europe as "Travels With Anita." bGiven the muddled, inconclusive drift of the screenplay, which remains suspiciously uncredited, a title like "Detours With Anita" or "Breakdown With Anita" would be more appropriate.
Goldie travels with a popular set of mannerisms, of course, and her wardrobe in "Lovers and Liars" includes an Army fatigue shirt. However, it's unlikely that these little details will prevent fans lured to this poorly dubbed, inexplicable import from $99[WORDS OMMITTED] feeling cheated and baffled. Despite her prominence, Goldie remains an unassimilated recruit for a curiously wayward, unfinished Italian picture.
The story concerns an unhappy weak-filled philanderer named Guido, played by Giancarlo Giannini, who buys himself unneeded complications and eventful humiliation by trying to work in some distracting hanky-panky while driving from Rome to Pisa, where his father is near death.Leaving his wife and teen-age son at home, Guido attempts to pick up a girl he dallied with the previous summer. She proves unavailable, but her houseguest, a footloose American named Anita who has flown to Italy on a two-week excursion fare and been stood up by the Italian suitor who attracted her there in the first place, hitches a ride with the obliging, shameless Guido.
There's no particular reason why Guido's traveling companion should be an American, and she probably wasn't in the original script. One can imagine Goldie and Gianni being a funny international mismatch, but their interplay doesn't grow out of humorous national or even sexual quirks. It's just trumped up, and the lovers themselves are unpleasant company, a set of petty-minded, self-indulgent chumps who may deserve each other but inspire no affection or rooting interest.
What begins as a frivolous fling is meant to acquire serious undercurrents. This modification also proves beyond the realm of possibility. Guido's delays, which include a scenic romantic side trip with his passenger to an out-of-season island resort, cause him to arrive after his father has died. The focus shifts to jealousies harbored within the family, particularly by Guido's sisters-in-law, who feel, evidently with some justification, that he has been the undeserving beneficiary of parental favoritism.
In an awkward position, Guido attempts to keep Anita tucked away in a hotel on one side of town while glumly doing his duty by the family. This balancing act collapses on the day of his father's funeral. Resenting Guido's negligence, Anita shows up to make a scene. Under the circumstances, here presumptuous determination to get even reduces the character of Anita to an even baser level of tartiness. Guido has been concealing things from her, certainly, but it's difficult to see why Anita merits much consideration. It's not as if their casual, amoral association were such that she had a right to expect anything but devious behavior.
Ironically, the one amusing sequence in the film occurs as a result of Guido's exposure as a skirt-chasing wretch moments before the funeral procession. Defending himself against the accusations of his sisters-in-law, Guido counterattacks by spilling a few well-kept family secrets, and the procession begins to fall apart with undignified squabbling and tattling.
In a better movie this sequence -- the only indication that director Mario Monicelli, now 65, might still retain the touch that once produced a comedy like "Big Deal on Madonna Street" -- could have become a slap-stick classic. In "Lovers and Liars" it seems sadly wasted, a swell situation without the clever accumulation of dramatic interest that would justify a satisfying farcical payoff.
Moreover, the situation has no aftermath. "Lovers and Liars" conks out, leaving you with guazy picturesque epilogue that implies Guido and Anita are consorting again. Why should they be reunited? Why should one care? It's somebody's unappealing little secret.