Screenwriter Ernest Lehman, whose credits include the screenplays for North by Northwest
, West Side Story
, and The Sweet Smell of Success
, made a less than distinguished debut as a director with this adaptation of Philip Roth
's controversial novel about Alexander Portnoy (Richard Benjamin), a Jewish man who, during a session with his analyst, goes on one long tirade after another about his family, his childhood, his sexual fantasies and desires, his problems with women, and his obsession with his own Judaism. If ever there was a novel that by its nature would defy accurate presentation onscreen, this was it; but for all its flaws, Portnoy's Complaint
does feature a few good performances, most notably Karen Black as Portnoy's Gentile lust object, "The Monkey", Jeannie Berlin as the memorably named local slattern Bubbles Girardi, and Jill Clayburgh as Naomi, a woman Portnoy meets in Israel. Lehman never directed again.