Here's Lumet again, from an interview I conducted with him for the DGA Quarterly in the fall of 2007: "On Braverman, I was just not that ready to deal with that level of comedy. I wasn't that firm about it, I wasn't that secure about it. I wasn't that knowledgeable about it." Indeed. Had Sargent's script had a more realistic tenor to it, Lumet might have been on firmer footing. But the picture is dotted with fantasy sequences in which the picture's lead character, Monroe Rieff (George Segal), imagines, say, his wife's reaction to his own death. Lumet handles these bits of mordant neurotic whimsy by having cinematographer Boris Kaufman shoot them in a haze of diffusion, and stage them in a broad fashion that calls to mind nothing so much as the naughty-kitsch TV series Love American Style. Lumet's on much surer footing with the serio-sarcastic exchanges between Rieff's fellow intellectual buddies (played by a surprisingly effective Jack Warden and a spectacular, pre-Boss Hogg Sorrell Booke) and their one-time professor (a really marvelous Joseph Wiseman—yes, Dr. No), who at first refuses to ride with the group because Booke's driving a Volkswagon.
Also rather moving is the group's eloquent silence in a montage of their drive through Brooklyn's Williamsburg. In the '60s, cosmopolitan New Yorkers still saw the borough as a place to escape from, not migrate to, and their compelled return inspires them to take on looks of mournful defeat. Little touches such as that make Braverman a kind of unexpectedly acute cinematic time capsule.
Other sights in the film produce similar frissons. As in, wow, look at how thick the Sunday New York Times used to be. In the summer, no less. That's Zohra Lampert carrying it. The picture showcases Lampert and two other thinking men's sex symbols of the era, Jessica Walter and Phyllis Newman. Also, it's the film in which lead actor Segal definitively added "over-educated schlub" to his character quiver.
And after that...well, it's mostly documentary value for New York nuts. As in this view of Sheridan Square—the Smiler's and the cigar shop are still there, and in large part unchanged, today!
And so on.