For an ostensible 1960s sex farce, There’s a Girl in My Soup (1970) has a lot to say about the concomitant difficulties of ‘free love’.
Peter Sellers is Robert Danvers, a British TV host, based in swinging London, with the much-deserved reputation of (what was once termed) ‘a ladies’ man’. He’s an aging Romeo with puffed-up hair and foppish scarfs and frills. Not a bad sort really, just not very interesting.
He meets up with 19-year-old Marian, played Goldie Hawn, an American hippy-chick who has just broken up with her rock drummer boyfriend.
Sellers picks her up at a party.
A typical 1960s sex farce would have:
- played off the age gap – he would be ‘square’, she would be ‘groovy/cool/with it/in touch/etc.’ That doesn’t happen. Instead, this drama dives a little deeper.
- made much more of the culture clash – Rat Pack meets Haight Ashbury. Here, it’s just suggested.
- never permitted Goldie Hawn, who rose to fame in the persona of a bug-eyed, ditzy blonde, to be so smart. Dumb blondes, for decades of movie-making, were simply stock characters.
- offered a less truthful ending. That really doesn’t happen.
There’s a Girl in My Soup, with a preponderance of interior scenes and energetic dialogue, reveals its origination as a play – in this case, one of the most successful plays in the history of London’s West End. This element greatly contributes to its unique appeal – and likely why it has outlasted so many similar films from the period. It’s surprisingly thoughtful.
This is the film that helped make Goldie Hawn a star. She demonstrates a toughness you would never have expected from the Laugh-In bikini girl. As for Sellers, he overplays his vanity just enough to enter the realm of farce, but never enough to remain there.
The film suggests that people don’t really change, just circumstances, and the much-celebrated ‘character arc’ that’s supposed to force an ‘epiphany’ by the third act, in real life, doesn’t happen. Exactly how such a realization ended up in a 1960s sex farce is a complete, pleasant, mystery.