Carnal Knowledge

1971, Comedy/Drama, 1h 36m

31 Reviews 5,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Although it comes lopsidedly from the male gaze, Carnal Knowledge is a sexually frank and ferociously well-acted battle between the sexes. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Nice guy Sandy (Art Garfunkel) and charming schemer Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) meet as college roommates in the late 1940s. Sandy woos and eventually marries the sweetly virginal Susan (Candice Bergen) without knowing that she had cheated on him with Jonathan. Years later, his marriage faltering, Sandy attempts to mimic Jonathan's promiscuous womanizing, while the misogynistic Jonathan finally tries his hand at monogamy with the gorgeous but emotionally needy Bobbie (Ann-Margret).

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for Carnal Knowledge

Audience Reviews for Carnal Knowledge

  • Mar 24, 2021
    An extremely unpleasant movie, I get that is kind of the point but I think that the screenplay does get a little repetitive. Fortunately the performances are top notch across the board suggesting deeper complexities in the characters.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2015
    I can't believe it took me so long to get to what was once must-see viewing back in the day, but at least now I know what all the fuss was about. Jack Nicholson owns this bit about life in the free swinging early 70's, where "making it" was more important than keeping it, regardless of the consequences. Nicholson represents those as well, oblivious as to why he's so fuggin' miserable. The rest of the cast is good, but Ann-Margret rules as the woman trying to be all things in the maelstrom of changing paradigms those days embodied.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 07, 2011
    Both sexually exploitative and immature in their own ways, two men navigate changing sexual mores during the sexual revolution. I always thought that <i>Closer</i> was the meanest film ever made, certainly the meanest in Mike Nichols's canon. Now that I've seen <i>Carnal Knowledge</i>, I think <i>Closer</i> might have found its match but not its better. Exploring themes of lust and betrayal, <i>Carnal Knowledge</i> centers on the lives of two men, played by Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel, who resort to sex and sexual relationships to determine their self-worth. They wonder if the relationships they've had precluded them from other experiences, and what the film amounts to is a perception that no matter what path we choose, we're doomed to regret and a paralyzing lack of fulfillment. Nicholson's performance is one of the best of his career; the argument between his character and Bobbie is up there with the best moments he's ever put on film. Ann-Margaret is also incredible, and Garfunkel surprised me with his lonely, awkward naivete. The script is also superb with such great lines as Sandy claiming that a woman is doing him a favor is she sleeps with him and of course, "I'd almost marry you if you leave me." Overall, like <i>Closer</i>, this is a love story for adults -- cynical adults who know that the rules of engagement are always changing and often aggressive.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Oct 21, 2011
    Nicholsan's portrayal of a bastard is spot on.
    Graham J Super Reviewer

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