Jane Fonda and Robert Redford… does it get more charming than that? These two Hollywood veterans have been in four movies together where they played love interests each time and after seeing Barefoot in the Park I can understand why. These two have an incredible romantic chemistry. To start with, they’re both sex symbols and very attractive people, but they also seem to have a human connection beyond the physical that works. These two talented leads and Mildred Natwick are really what make this film successful and every entertaining.
Jane Fonda is one of my all time favorite actors and just people in general – a real icon. Fonda finds a nice energy with this role that works. That energy is like that of an excited kid who’s just starting school and can barely control themselves but is also nervous things won’t turn out. At the beginning, we see her as this newlywed who can’t keep her hands off her new husband… literally. As Barefoot in the Park progresses, we see her nerves kick in some and we see her trepidation about her new marriage and whole new life. What I like about her character is that she’s the complete embodiment of probably how most young newlyweds feel.. unsure but excited and giddy, of course it is exaggerated for comedy though.
Robert Redford was the “it” man back in the day when this was made and rightfully so. Not only was he talented but he was so unbelievably handsome and smooth. Redford plays Fonda’s husband who’s pretty straight laced and isn’t nearly as happy go lucky as she is, which makes for some comedic conflict. Redford is such a gem and he could charm the pants off anyone. He probably could’ve melted butter just by looking at it. He gives a fine performance full of charisma and energy.
The chemistry between these two is unbelievably intense and palpable, it came across as effortless, which is a big testament to their talent. I’m sure it wasn’t that difficult for them to do these roles. though. I mean they’re both nice good looking people that are easy to become smitten with.
I simply must mention Mildred Natwick before I move past the cast because wow! Natwick has so many wonderfully hilarious moments where she’s sure to have you cracking up and she’s so lovable, too. She plays the mother of Fonda’s character and when she came onscreen I just assumed that she’d be an old fashioned stuffy mother like older women usually are in classic films, but no I was wrong. I love that they constructed her character with a great sense of humor and that she isn’t one of those judgmental old ladies you see.
Barefoot in the Park isn’t large in scope that’s for sure and I like that about it, it’s simple and that’s the charm about it. It’s basically about us getting to know these people and giving us an abundance of laughs as we see this newlywed couple navigate the first week of marriage.
The script is full of truly funny dialogue and I love that they prioritized that instead of slapstick and physical humor because I’ve never really thought slapstick was that amusing and well written comedic dialogue delivered by a talented actor works so much better. Like I said before, Natwick gets the majority of the one liners and witty dialogue and boy does she know just how to deliver them, she had me laughing in every scene she was in.
With all this positive, there is a negative and I know this film was released in 1967 and it was a different time but nonetheless, this made me uncomfortable. (Unfortunately, this is common with movies of the time.) Although it’s very brief, Redford has one line where he claims there are two people of the same sex living together and refers to them as weirdos. I so wish the writers didn’t include this homophobic line. It’s hurtful as an LGBTQ individual, especially when I think of the many gay and lesbian people in that time who were discriminated against and basically just not allowed to live. They were pushed out of society in every way. While it’s only a few seconds out of the film, it’s still inexcusable.
Barefoot in the Park benefits from an ever talented cast that’s funny and charming and from a delightfully entertaining script. I do recommend this classic but you’ll have to pretend the homophobic remark isn’t there…. so disappointing! I’ll leave you with this: We see Jane Fonda in her bra dancing around… why couldn’t we see Robert Redford with his shirt off shaking the money?? Tragic…..