What A Way To Go!

What A Way To Go!
Sometimes, the best way to deal with the stress of the day is to decompress by spending an evening curled up on a comfy couch and taking in some unmitigated camp, courtesy of the 1960s. What A Way To Go! fits perfectly into that scenario.

The premise is clever, the cast is impressive, and it also has some of the most colorful and outrageous costumes ever designed for a single film.

From the moment the 20th Century Fox logo appears – entirely in pink – the audience knows something silly is about to happen, and it does. Despite being billed as a dark comedy, the film is frivolous and fun, and it stars Shirley MacLaine and some of the hunkiest leading men of the day including Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Dick Van Dyke, and Gene Kelly.

Originally titled I Love Louisa, and based on a story by Gwen Davis, Marilyn Monroe was slated to play the lead, but she died while the film was still in its planning stages. Elizabeth Taylor was strongly considered for the part, but it was Shirley MacLaine who eventually ended up with the role of Louisa May Foster – a girl whose one true desire is to fall in love and lead a life of Thoreau-like simplicity.

Unfortunately, Louisa spends more of her time in funeral togs than enjoying wedded bliss.

Louisa marries four times, all with the same result. She marries for love but shortly after each marriage, her husband becomes incredibly successful in his career, making his work the priority.

Each husband eventually becomes a victim of his own particular obsession, dying under ridiculous circumstances, and leaving millions of dollars to Louisa.

Louisa’s relationships are served up like vignettes; each telling a similar story but under different circumstances. The more she marries, the less simplistic her life becomes.

If it weren’t so unbelievable, it wouldn’t be funny.

Incredible costumes by Edith Head tell a different story – the story of a woman who dresses for the part she plays in her husband’s life, rather than her own.

With an unheard-of budget of $500,000 and a reported 75 costume changes for MacLaine, Louisa’s wardrobe grows to reflect the relationship she has with each husband, ranging from colorful and elegant evening gowns to vision-assaulting abstract jumpsuits.

It isn’t until the end of the film that Louisa is dressed comfortably and finally at home in her own skin.

What A Way To Go! is an entertaining reminder that life is a journey not a destination, and that irony generally rules the day. Still, with the burden of financial security and a wardrobe by Edith Head, life can actually have a happy ending; especially when one strives to “simplify.”

***I screened this film at my own expense and received no additional compensation for this review.

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