I Love You, Alice B. Toklas
Written by Paul Mazurksy & Larry Tucker
Directed by Hy Averback
As much as uptight asthmatic lawyer Harold is repulsed by the hippie subculture, it seems equally drawn to him. After a freak accident puts his car out of commission, he's stuck with the only loaner that the shop had left in stock: an old wagon painted up in psychedelic stylings, looking like one part Mystery Machine, one part Partridge Family bus, and one part Merry Prankster's Further. Almost immediately following this, Harold is reunited with his brother Herbie, a flower child residing in Venice Beach, and he develops some infatuation with his brother's hippie chick girlfriend Nancy. Nevermind the fact that Harold is already engaged to Joyce.
Nancy bakes Harold a batch of "groovy" brownies, and before you can say Barney Miller, Harold inadvertently shares them with his fiance and parents. Still reeling from the wacky tobacky, Harold abandons his old life and plunges head first into Wonderland.
This wacky little flick is populated with kooky characters and a bleak, bitter sense of humor. It seemed almost like an old Woody Allen film taking place among the California hippies instead of the New York intelligentsia.
I had a lot of fun throughout, despite the lack of a solid story, and enjoyed it many times more than I thought I would. It was a smart, biting satire of a subculture that was destined to consume itself,, and the most interesting thing is that there seems to be a sense of legitimacy here. The filmmakers appear to have had at least a peripheral knowledge of the scene they're mocking, or at the very least were very good at faking it, which is a rarity for these types of films.
On a side note, no, you're not missing something--there is no character named Alice B. Toklas here. She was a real person who wrote a cookbook upon which this movie is hinged.
Double-bill this with Lord Love A Duck for two times the subversive fun.
Any movie that references Allen Ginsberg in the first 30 seconds is aces in my book.
"Mondo teeth. What a concept!"