Pitched to the public as a comedy, it is that, but I have always seen it as a very effective drama. The movie is permeated with sadness and despair. One aspect of the story that I always liked was how each of the main characters deal with the stresses of life--Pete's almost constant cheating, and a truly hideous tragedy that strikes the small family.
Here, we see these two figures--best known for comedic roles--showing their skill at portraying pure drama. It's something fans of these actors really need to see.
The comedy aspect of the film is present, though. Specifically in the form of Gertrude, one of Tillie's friends played by Geraldine Page. Page is absolutely funny in the movie, and there is one scene in PETE 'N' TILLIE that is among the funniest moments of any film I've ever seen.
Also, Rene Auberjonois does a great turn as Tillie's gay friend who even offers to marry her if being with her could make her happy. I think this role was the first obviously gay character I ever saw in a movie.
If you haven't seen this one...give it a shot.
I watched this movie with my mom once. I don't think I ever saw her laugh so much as when she witnessed this scene. I must concur with her judgment.