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Film / Phffft!

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Phffft! is a 1954 comedy film, starring Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon.

After eight years of marriage, Nina (Holliday) and Robert Tracy (Lemmon) decide to split up. With the divorce painlessly done, Nina washes her hands of Robert during her stay in Reno, and decides to take her mother's advice and get back to the dating scene. At the same time, Robert moves in with his friend, failed playwright Charlie Nelson (Jack Carson), and is also pressured to date. Charlie, the ever suave ladies man, convinces Robert to date the not-too-smart Janis (Kim Novak), a young floozy.

But getting back into circulation makes both Nina and Robert weary, especially when they keep running into each other wherever they go. They try their best to distract themselves from the old bubbling feelings, but things come to a head when they share a mambo dance.

This light Romantic Comedy was Lemmon's second film appearance, and reunited him with Holliday, who'd costarred in his first film, It Should Happen to You. The film was directed by Mark Robson, and adapted by screenwriter George Axelrod from his stage play of the same name.

Tropes in this work are as follows:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Belting a few double martinis makes Nina loudly remark—in a crowded restaurant, no less—how she has gotten more beautiful over the years, and that now that she's divorced she's going to be "passion's plaything".
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The end, of course.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: More tension then you can shake a stick at!
  • Big Apple Sauce: There's a lot of footage of 1950s New York.
  • Brutal Honesty: The ridiculous mustache that Robert sports makes Nina say this:
    Nina:It happens to make you perfectly ridiculous.
  • Call-Back: When Nina sees that Robert has grown a mustache:
    Nina: You look like a gigolo. You don’t even look like a gigolo; you look like Groucho Marx!
  • The Casanova: The always womanizing Charlie.
  • Catchphrase: Janis' constant use of "dreamy".
  • Character Tics: The actor in Nina's show scrunches up his nose like a bunny whenever he poses a proposition.
  • The Dandy: Trying to change his image, Robert changes his outfits to much dandier ones.
  • Dance of Romance: The mambo Nina and Robert share.
  • Desk Jockey: Robert spent the war behind a desk, not because he didn't want to fight, but because he was better at contracts and saving money for the war department.
  • Divorce in Reno: Nina is surprised how quick and easy the divorce was, and spends the customary time in Reno, Nevada.
  • Dumb Blonde: Janis plays it up to a hilt.
  • Love Epiphany: After the mambo dance, both Nina and Robert know they still have feelings for each other.
  • The Peeping Tom: Played for Laughs: Janis and her roommate have a peeping tom that they keep teasing; they never bother to close their blinds.
  • Pulp Magazine: Robert reads He Stooped to Kill by Jason Carter.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: After inviting Janis over for a second date, Robert dresses himself up like a Hugh Hefner type, and gets out a tiger skin rug to set the mood.
  • Rom Com Job: Nina's a writer for NBC.
  • Running Gag:
    • Robert can't seem to get past these sentences in the book, He Stooped to Kill: "Outside, the night was as cold as a cold miner's t-shirt. I turned slowly away from the window and faced her. Then, for the first time, she could see the automatic in my hand. For a long moment, she stared at me in silence. Her eyes had that funny mad look I'd come to know and fear. Her moist red lips were half parted. Then slowly, her eyes never leaving my face, she began to, one button at a time, undo the front of her sweater."
    • The fact that Robert and Nina were going to take rumba lessons.
    • Filing Nina’s cancelled checks for her income taxes.
    • One doesn't simply walk into Nina's house... without tripping on the stairs.
  • Sexiled: Charlie has already set up a system with his statue, Sam. He turns it on, the eyes illuminate, and he turns it towards the window, so the approaching roommate will know the apartment is occupied.
    • Robert is surprised when Janis already knows the procedure with Sam.
  • Sleeping Single: Surprisingly averted.
  • Shout-Out: Robert says he'll look like Groucho Marx if he grows a mustache.
    • The title of the film is a shout out to society columnist, Walter Winchell, who, when mentioning a divorce in his columns, would say they’ve gone “phffft!”
  • Show With In A Show: The Nina penned, NBC hit, Serena, Medical Wife.
  • You Said You Couldn't Dance: Nina finds out that Robert can dance the rumba, and surprisingly, the mambo.
  • Zip Me Up: A very flustered Robert zips up Janis in a pretty dress.