Considering all the talent involved - Minnelli; stars Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robinson, Cyd Charisse, Claire Trevor, etc.; producer John Houseman; Charles Schnee adapting Irwin Shaw's novel, or the fact that most of the same team made the similar The Bad and the Beautiful ten years before, Two Weeks in Another Town should have been better.
Partly it plays like a typically glossy, middle-brow MGM movie, one of the very last gasps of that kind of film. At the same time, it tries hard to come off as sophisticated, worldly, literate, and adult, but instead the picture is merely lurid and overwrought, almost comically so. They might have been aiming for something artful like Godard's Contempt (1963), but the final product is more like The Oscar (1966) or Valley of the Dolls (1967), just not entertainingly ludicrous like those pictures.
After many months in a sanitarium following a horrific car crash in which he nearly died, alcoholic has-been movie star Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) receives an encouraging letter from director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson), urging him to fly to Rome, where he's shooting a film at Cinecittà Studios. The doctors at the sanitarium endorse Andrus's release.
Having starred in many acclaimed films for Kruger, Andrus gets his hopes up, only to learn that the only job Kruger offers him is two weeks directing the dubbing work, as Kruger's film otherwise will go overschedule and overbudget - and he'll lose control of the picture he sees as his last chance of a comeback.
At a screening of one of the Kruger-Andrus team's earlier glories (footage from The Bad and the Beautiful, Minnelli and Houseman immodesty presenting it as a great achievement), Andrus meets Italian actress Veronica (Daliah Lavi) whom he immediately falls for. However, also in Rome is Carlotta (Cyd Charisse), a glamorous but sadistic gold-digger whose break from Andrus to marry a Greek tycoon sent the actor over the edge in the first place. Now, in Rome, she taunts him mercilessly.
Veronica, for her part, isn't in love with Andrus, either, but smitten with the movie's James Dean knock-off, irresponsible and unresponsive David Drew (George Hamilton). Kruger, meanwhile, has more problems to contend with: a jealous, banshee-like boozing wife, Clara (Claire Trevor), who's had enough of her husband's infidelity.
One can spot Two Weeks' many problems in the Edward G. Robinson-Claire Trevor scenes, obviously meant to remind viewers of their past tense relationship in John Huston's riveting Key Largo (1948). Robinson, one of the four or five greatest of American screen actors, has a paper-thin character to play, and Trevor, so subtly tragic in Key Largo, comes off as shrill.
Indeed, all of the characters in the film, with maybe the exception of Veronica, are unpleasant, self-obsessed manipulators, or chumps being manipulated. The target of all this manipulation is, of course, Andrus, who from the first reel is like Norman Maine and Esther Blodgett and all their insecurities and foibles put together. Kirk, alas, is not up to the part. He can be electrifying in the right part, but here, teetering toward full-blown madness, his excesses are exactly the type of thing impressionists like Frank Gorshin tapped into for the stand-up. A moderately famously scene at the end, with Douglas and Charisse in a sports car spinning like a Tilt-a-Whirl against a rear-projection screen, teeters between inspired chutzpah and inadvertently hilarious, like the absurd slapstick at the end of Laurel & Hardy's County Hospital.
Daliah Lavi is nearly unrecognizable as a sweet, nurturing caregiver, but the character is sheer fantasy. Hamilton's spoiled actor is far worse; this side of Robert Wagner, it's hard to imagine an actor more ill-suited for that part.
Movies about moviemaking almost always perversely get all the details wrong, and Two Weeks is no exception, though the behind-the-scenes footage at Cinecittà is moderately interesting.
Video & Audio
Film in Panavision (though advertised as CinemaScope), Two Weeks in Another Town looks okay but not great on Blu-ray. It looks like an older transfer, lacking the snap of the many of the ‘scope titles licensed from Fox in recent years. Likewise the mono audio, supported by optional English subtitles. The lone Extra Feature is a trailer that doesn't sell the film well.
Worth seeing once for its cast and director, Two Weeks in Another Town is a big disappointment, yet not so bad to be entertaining on that level. Rent It.