review for Victor/Victoria on AllMovie

Victor/Victoria (1982)
by Donald Guarisco review

This witty, energetic film is one of the best and most memorable efforts in the accomplished career of Blake Edwards. The story's fusion of screwball comedy and musical review is a potentially unwieldy combination, but Blake Edwards manages to make it work with a thoughtful script that weaves rich characterizations into a carefully-constructed but sprawling plot that gives them room to breathe. Victor/Victoria is lengthy but never feels overlong thanks to Edwards' stylish work behind the camera: he excels at crafting complex slapstick setpieces but shows equal skill with the film's many rousing musical numbers (the highlight is a stunning cabaret number called "Le Jazz Hot"). His work is ably supported by the film's handsome production values, which include a dazzling Henry Mancini score full of memorable cabaret tunes and excellent cinematography by Dick Bush that adds just the right veneer of Hollywood glamour. However, the true appeal of Victor/Victoria lies in the magnificent performances that add heart to its combination of style and wit. Julie Andrews finds the right combination of vulnerability and cynicism to make her demanding double role work, Robert Preston brings warmth and razor-sharp verbal wit in equal measure to his role as her protector, and James Garner is a subtle delight as the mobster who is forced to reevaluate his concept of masculinity. The film also features plenty of scene-stealing supporting performances, especially Lesley Ann Warren's turn as King's oversexed mistress and Alex Karras' deadpan work as King's surprisingly sensitive and perceptive bodyguard. All these elements jell together beautifully to create a film that manages to work as a valentine to the screwball comedy and musical genres while also adding thoroughly modern theme of social and sexual tolerance into the mix. As a result, Victor/Victoria manages to feel classic and progressive all at once and this duality makes it one of Blake Edward's finest cinematic achievements.