Double feature: “Cactus Flower” and “Christmas in Connecticut” are two films whose humor stems from an invented domestic life with imaginary family members. In the former, the made-up family is a compassion-inducing source of woe; in the latter, it is a beacon of bliss from which others take comfort.
Both films are tender-hearted and display a tongue-in-cheek innocence for their respective eras. The near-inexorable momentum of both derives from their characters’ scrambles to keep up with their increasingly complicated deceptions. Hilarity ensues as the protagonists – along with the characters they enlist to fill their invented family trees – juggle the proliferating habits and characteristics of their dreamed-up home lives.
Underlying these films’ surface layers of goggle-eyed farce is a shared implicit statement about the mechanics of wish fulfillment and our blindness to our most profound needs (despite a mastery of our shallow preferences.)
At the start of their narrative arcs, the primary deceivers in both films belong to the same urban archetype: self-sufficient, clear-minded pragmatists who smoothly rattle off their unromantic priorities. The “magic” of both films is that their protagonists’ initially perfunctory invocations of make-believe families end up making them happily consider, then long for, then ultimately attain domestic happiness in real-life.
For a marathon: In “Cactus Flower,” Goldie Hawn is the character who earnestly believes the lies of others – twenty years later, she takes the reins of dissembling/invention in the similarly convoluted “Housesitter.”
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “SewPixie” and “Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton” at Flickr)