A film about the post-collegiate lives of eight female students in the Thirties, Sidney Lumet‘s The Group (1966) makes me curious about the Mary McCarthy novel on which it is based (and which I haven’t read). The film itself, after all, is pretty incurious about such matters as the interior lives of these women. All we see is their constant interaction with each other and with the men in their lives (group interaction), which is one reason I don’t find the movie engaging.
Brought into focus here are educated women who are in truth intellectual nonentities, enticed by gossip, sexual liberty of sorts, and surface politics. They’re mostly underachievers too. To this I have no objection, but, scripted by Sidney Buchman, The Group is overwrought and too episodic—as well as marred by some lousy acting. Elizabeth Hartman, for example, simply lacks appeal in a puny role: that of Priss, whose flat chest is a subject of discussion for the women when Priss begins to breastfeed her child. Certainly Joanna Pettet is not uninteresting but she overplays a woman called Kay. Jessica Walter does likewise for Libby, while Candice Bergen and Kathleen Widdoes are hopelessly bland. Hal Holbrook is somehow off. Shirley Knight, on the other hand, is winsome and never false; and James Broderick is commendable also.
Sadly, it can be said that the movie contains meaning but matters very little.