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Film / The Out-of-Towners

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The Out-of-Towners is a 1970 American comedy film written by Neil Simon, directed by Arthur Hiller, and starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis.

The film centers on George Kellerman (Lemmon) and his wife Gwen (Dennis). They live in Twin Oaks, Ohio, but George's company has invited him to interview for a possible job promotion in New York City. From the moment they depart their home town, the Kellermans suffer nearly every disaster that out-of-towners could possibly experience, with George angrily collecting the names of everyone who wrongs them – vowing to sue every last one of them – and Gwen accepting each new indignity with quiet resignation.

Remade in 1999, with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn in the main roles.

This film features examples of:

  • '60s Hair: Plenty of it, given the time period; verging on early '70s Hair.
  • The '70s: Only barely (1970), so it actually still resembles The '60s as far as hair, clothes and vehicles.
  • Accidental Kidnapping: George and Gwen's police escort responds to a felony call, and in the process the criminals manage to steal the police car with the Kellermans still sitting in the back seat. They dump them in Central Park soon after.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The Kellermans get a brief break from running after being dumped in Central Park late at night, where they share a few quiet moments before falling asleep (and soon being mugged).
  • The Adventure Continues: George and Gwen are happily flying home after their ordeal when their pleasant flight is interrupted by armed men taking over the plane, and demanding it be diverted to Havana.
  • All for Nothing: The only thing that ends up going right for George is that he does land the very lucrative promotion he came to New York City for in the first place, but Gwen helps George realize an upwardly mobile move to New York City is not what they truly cherish after the urban problems and indignities they have suffered through, so both make the decision to remain in their small town.
  • All Men Are Perverts: A woman sees George reaching into the pockets of a young boy in Central Park, and assumes he is molesting him. The viewer knows George is just looking for money.
  • Ambadassador: The Kellermans desperately flag down a car trying to get to their hotel, and it just so happens to be a UN delegate from Cuba, who is pleasant and helpful. However, his presence causes a small street riot over political issues, and George and Gwen are once again sucked into another dangerous situation just by being with him.
  • Bad Samaritan:
    • A man named Murray appears at first to help the main couple before robbing them at gunpoint.
    • The baseball players in Central Park who jump George, mistakenly believing he was attacking Gwen during an argument.
  • Beehive Hairdo: You can spot a couple of them on extras in the background.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: George and Gwen meet a seemingly friendly, helpful stranger in a hotel lobby when he overhears their predicament. He is ostensibly escorting them on foot to another hotel when he pulls a gun and robs them blind.
  • Big "OMG!": Gwen says "Oh my God!" every time something bad happens to them.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: George and Gwen Kellerman visit New York City in 1970. Among the many other catastrophes that happen to them, they're robbed at gunpoint (and knifepoint) – and met with apathy from the police when they report the crime; held hostage by armed liquor store robbers; and mugged while sleeping in Central Park.
  • Bittersweet Ending: See Downer Ending.
  • Broken Heel: Gwen's heels break during the Kellermans' New York ordeal.
  • Butt-Monkey: The Kellermans put up with ridiculous amounts of abuse in New York City.
  • Bystander Syndrome: There are multiple times when George and Gwen are literally crying out for help, and other people just give them the stink eye and ignore them.
  • Catchphrase: Gwen says "Oh my God!" every time something bad happens to them.
  • Central Theme: Every possible thing going wrong on a trip to the big city.
  • Chase Scene: 2 police officers are escorting the Kellermans in their cruiser when they receive a call to a burglary in progress. George stubbornly refuses to exit the vehicle, so he and Gwen end up riding along as the police pursue the burglars for several blocks.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover art shows George and Gwen smiling and having a good time.
  • Crapsack World: New York City appears to be dysfunctional in every way imaginable and full of people who are either actively trying to hurt each other or, at the very least, no help at all.
  • Determinator: George is absolutely dead-set on getting to New York City for his big job interview at 9AM, enduring and overcoming several huge setbacks that would have most normal people calling in and canceling/rescheduling.
  • Did Not Think This Through:
    • George refuses to get out of the police car when his NYPD escort receives a call to a burglary in progress, even when the cops and his wife plead with him for his own safety to get out and walk the rest of the way to their lodging. They ride with the cops to the scene of the burglary, which predictably does not go well.
    • When George decides to frisk a random child for money in a public park, and of course is mistaken for a pedophile.
  • Domestic Abuse: Played for Laughs because it was The '60s, but the way George talks to Gwen would be considered quite abusive and toxic by 21st century standards.
  • Downer Ending: Again oddly Played for Laughs because of the nature of the movie, but the final scene shows the Kellermans' airplane home being hijacked by armed Cuban revolutionaries/terrorists: hardly a funny situation for anyone. The Adventure Continues...
  • Enemies List: George carries an ever-growing list of people and businesses that contribute to making his trip to New York miserable.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie only takes place over the course of a day and change, with the majority of it happening on the first night.
  • Fish out of Water: Much of the film's humor is derived from how the main couple suffers nearly every indignity out-of-towners possibly could experience.
  • Foreshadowing: Among the many catastrophes the Kellermans endure is an attack by protestors in front of the Cuban embassy. The very last one they are subject to is on the return trip — when their flight home is hijacked to Cuba.
  • Freak Out: George does this outside in the street, yelling at New York City in general, out of anger at his ordeal.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: George threatens several people in the movie with one of these. Pretty much every time something inconvenient happens to George, he demands the person's name and claims he's contacting his attorney.
  • Good Samaritan: The redcap porter at South Station informs George he can still catch the train he just missed, if he goes straight to Longview. This allows the Kellermans to physically make it to NYC. Of course, The Adventure Continues from there.
  • Greaser Delinquents: The 2 liquor store thieves have this general appearance, with great '60s Hair.
  • Heavy Sleeper: At the end of what must have been the longest night of their lives, George and Gwen fall asleep in Central Park. Within minutes, they're quietly mugged at knifepoint by a shadowy man hanging around in the park. George sleeps right through it, and absolutely can't believe his ears when Gwen tells him the story the next morning.
  • High-Class Gloves: Gwen wears a pair of these.
  • Hollywood New England: The Kellermans are flying to New York City, but their flight is diverted to Boston due to heavy fog. There are some cool shots of Logan Airport, the Combat Zone/Downtown and South Station.
  • Hope Spot: The Kellermans try hopping a bus, but are kicked off just one block down the street for not having fare money.
  • Hostile Weather:
    • Heavy fog sets the plot in motion by forcing the Kellerman's flight to divert from NYC and land in Boston.
    • Later on, right when George and Gwen begin their trek on foot to their hotel, it starts thundering and pouring rain.
  • Humiliation Conga: The movie is basically nothing but a long one directed at the Kellermans.
  • Jump Cut: When Captain Endicott announces that the plane will be proceeding to Boston instead of New York City, George is outraged. "I have to be in New York at 9:00 in the morning and tonight I'm going to Boston!" Cut straight to the bustling crowd at Boston Logan's baggage claim carousel.
  • Just Following Orders: Lennie, the TV production guy who won't let George and Gwen pray inside the church until a certain time when filming is done. George takes the attitude of Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!.
  • Karma Houdini: None of the muggers or other violent criminals are shown getting any justice.
  • Large Ham: Jack Lemmon (George Kellerman), all the way.
  • Mistaken Identity: George thinks Gwen is in the restroom, so he sends in a janitor lady to try and fetch her. Turns out Gwen was never in there to begin with, and the janitor lady pulls a random bewildered woman out of the restroom thinking she was Gwen.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: George pulls a little boy behind the bushes to search him for money after sleeping in Central Park. A nearby woman spots him and calls for police, yelling, "Pervert in the park!" George and Gwen manage to outrun the mounted officer who responds.
  • Mood Whiplash: More than once, pretty much any time a gun is pulled and the Kellermans get embroiled in another SNAFU out of nowhere.
  • Nerd Glasses: Murray the con artist wears a pair of these, likely to appear less threatening so he can attract easy marks – such as out-of-towners like the Kellermans.
  • Newspaper Backstory: In the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria, a guest is shown reading the papers with large-print article titles about the transit strike while George discusses it with a bellman.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several of these throughout the movie. It's basically a giant chain of these types of moments and scenarios.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: See Oh, Crap!.
  • The Only One: Or ones, if you include both Kellermans. They are in a very bad situation, and real help is just about impossible to find.
  • Place Worse Than Death: The film was one of the films made before its major transformation in The '90s and the Disneyfication of Times Square, which cast New York City as a Wretched Hive the protagonists must endure and/or escape from.
  • Plane Awful Flight: Both times the Kellermans get on an airplane, things go terribly wrong.
  • Played for Laughs: Since it's a comedy, of course most of the incidents and situations in the movie are supposed to be funny. Alot of it though, could actually be considered fairly traumatizing and far from amusing, like the multiple armed muggings, kidnapping and hijacking.
  • Police Are Useless: The police are apathetic when the Kellermans report they have been robbed; and eventually get imperiled in a high-speed chase while they are riding in a police car en route to an armory, where the burglars manage to steal the police car with the Kellermans still in it.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: When George and Gwen catch a ride with a man nice enough to help them, they quickly find out he's a high-ranking government man who happens to be controversial. A group of people soon gather round the car yelling, throwing eggs and physically rocking the vehicle.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: This movie takes place at a time when much of New York City was a hot mess, and was going through a protracted period of high crime rates on top of substandard services and living conditions. The Kellermans could easily stand in for any naïve suburbanite couple making their first trip to the Big Rotten Apple, and being essentially chewed up and spit out.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In this case it's more of a "The Reason New York Sucks" speech, given by Gwen to George after his interview, detailing why she has no interest in moving there, and hopes he feels the same.
  • Running Gag:
    • With each successive catastrophe, George angrily writes down each perpetrator's name and promises to sue them or their company when he returns home.
    • Gwen saying "Oh my God!" every time something bad happens to them. It ends up being the last line of the film when she says it after discovering that they are subjected to one last catastrophe on their return trip — their flight home is hijacked to Cuba.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: George ends up experiencing tinnitus after a manhole explodes and the cover crashes to the street right next to him.
  • The Taxi: The Kellermans end up taking the same cab twice in Boston: first from Logan Airport to South Station, where they miss their NYC-bound train by mere seconds, and then to the next stop at Longview, where they catch up to it. George is so petty he gives his address to the driver so he can mail George his change for a $20 bill.
  • The Tooth Hurts: George ends up cracking a tooth on stale Cracker Jacks.
  • Touché: The two NYPD cops, when they are chasing the burglars on foot and end up getting their police cruiser stolen by the crooks themselves. The policemen know they've been juked, and can't do anything but grimace and throw their hands up as their car, now driven by the criminals they were just chasing, takes off into the night... with George and Gwen still in the back seat.
  • Urban Hell Scape: The gritty maze that is the streets of New York City is rundown and littered with giant piles of trash due to the sanitation strike and the overall chaotic nature of the place.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: After speaking in a comically flat, nasally Midwestern accent throughout the film, Sandy Dennis suddenly gives Gwen a very polished and almost quasi-British transatlantic voice for her big speech to George after he returns from the job interview toward the end.
  • Why We Need Garbagemen: The city is covered in garbage piles due to a sanitation strike.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The hijackers in the final scene demanding the flight be diverted to Cuba.