Englishman Charles Blake (Anthony Newley) has been living in New York these past three years, working as an executive in a box manufacturing business, but he feels he should get a driving license instead of relying on others to ferry him about. However, when he is taking the written test, the woman sitting behind him (Sandy Dennis) keeps interrupting him with questions, and when he turns around to respond, the invigilator orders him up to the front of the class and promptly disqualifies him for cheating. He now must return that afternoon and take the test again, much to his chagrin, but as he rearranges his day on the public phone, he realises the woman is trying to alert him...
Sweet November may be better known, if it is known at all, for its remake in 2001 which starred Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron, a more aesthetically attractive couple but blander as far as the personalities they could bring to the roles went. This was down to Newley and Dennis being among the most mannered performers of their generation, resulting in an utter quirkfest of tics, archness and playing for sympathy in a style completely shameless, as if they were less in love and more in a competition to see who could upstage the other. The rumour was that neither got on well with their counterpart, and if that was the case you could detect something of it in their approach.
Not that it was so noticeable it sabotaged the romance, the script did a pretty good job of that as it was. We were asked to swallow a plot so contrived that it made the meet cute of the first five minutes seem like the most natural thing in the world, all nakedly manipulative in its aims for the tear ducts, and to be fair it did work out as a weepie for some, a small cult of fans for whom this was genuinely affecting. For everyone else, on the other hand, its kitschy-coo affectation was the equivalent of being bullied into finding the premise as cute as a button, when it was actually as cute as a walrus, a great, lumbering beast that happened to be trying to endear itself to you.
For many, there was nothing worse than an unappealing plot getting ideas that was in fact given an easy access to your emotions when in effect you were closing it down in your mind the longer it progressed - and this lasted a far too elephantine couple of hours for such a flimsy piece of candy floss. That premise had it that Dennis's Sara Deever employed a plan for the men in her life, who she would adopt one month at a time for every one of them, trying to improve their lot by reshaping their personalities in a way that had this been any other film would have been a satirical comedy where at the end of the month she would reject them for not being the man they started out as. Though that was more or less what she did do, only this activity was supposed to be winning and affectionate.
Well, you assume she was affectionate, but the methods she adopted were difficult to agree with when they did not appear to be doing Sara any good, indeed she was a sour young lady whose toothy grin rarely reached her eyes; in her own way she was something of a tyrant, controlling with supposed kindness to give her own ego a boost. Not that you much sympathised with Charlie, who allows himself to be dressed up like a berk, take the month of November off work for the sake of writing embarrassingly gauche poetry, and have his supposedly impregnable heart broken by this person who was not conveying much of a motive for hanging out with her. Did I mention this was manipulative? That was thanks to the twist, well-telegraphed as it was, as to what Sara was really up to; no, she wasn't murdering these men for their money, she had a - gulp! - problem of her own, one that appeared to have no visible adverse effect on her, considering. You needed to be very forgiving to offer Sweet November the chances it demanded. Music by Michel Legrand (Newley sings the theme song).