Eye For Film >> Movies >> There's Always Vanilla (1971) Film Review
There's Always Vanilla
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The romantic comedy cliché of falling head over heels becomes literal in this early work by George Romero, with twentysomething slacker Chris (Raymond Laine) collapsing onto the concrete of a railways station platform after young model Lynn (Judith Ridley) comes rushing through the turnstile without looking. That he hams up his injured state and uses it as a pick-up device tells you all you need to know about his character. That she casually accepts a lift from someone who has just suffered a head injury tells you all you need to know about hers.
Romcom rules apply. Rudy Ricci's script delivers plenty of snappy dialogue; Romero doesn't get to do much as director but excels with his editing, giving parts of he film a lot of verve and, in other, successfully creating tension out of nothing. Chris is unceasingly awful but Lynn is used to the advertising world where egos are inflated and date rape de rigeur as in Hollywood, so he must seem like a good deal. Quite what she's getting out of things becomes less and less clear over time, however, as he moves into her flat and occupies himself with imagining he's imagining a novel, eating her food, drinking her alcohol and smoking her drugs, contributing nothing. Relations begin to sour.
That's most of it. There's satire about the advertising industry, an appropriately grim subplot about backstreet abortion two years before Roe vs Wade, and some gentle comedy around Chris' attempts to reconnect with his businessman father and his toddler son from a previous relationship. It's not very well strung together and in places it loses cohesion entirely. It is, throughout, very much a period piece, if such a thing can be said of a film made in the period with which it is saturated. Here is the legacy of the Summer of Love, with women just beginning to figure out that it wasn't free for them. From the lurid costumes to the playful street art, cheesy innuendo and precocious embrace of materialism, it's bold and brash and destined to stick in the memory like fondue in an old shag carpet.
As a portrait of a period, There's Always Vanilla is compact and highly effective. As a portrait of a relationship, it's dismally believable. The title comes from a discussion of favourite ice cream flavours and the avoidance of disappointment. What it perhaps overlooks is that all too often what is described as vanilla has no flavour at all.Reviewed on: 30 Oct 2017