Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1978. Universal Pictures, The Mirisch Corporation. Screenplay by Bernard Slade, based on his play. Cinematography by Robert Surtees. Produced by Morton Gottlieb, Walter Mirisch. Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Production Design by Henry Bumstead. Costume Design by Theadora Van Runkle. Film Editing by Sheldon Kahn. Academy Awards 1978. Golden Globe Awards 1978.
A rainy night at a California inn brings together a married accountant (Alan Alda) and a happy housewife (Ellen Burstyn), who spend a wonderful evening together that ends up in bed. The next morning he hashes out his Red Scare-era guilt over what they did while she feels no remorse whatsoever; her ease rubs off and pretty soon they’ve decided to meet at the same time and place every year. While never getting in the way of their own satisfying marriages, Alda and Burstyn find an intimacy burgeoning between them that is a relief from their everyday lives. Various dates over the decades are viewed as we watch America change through these two people who experience every political angle, every personal triumph and tragedy that the last half of the twentieth century has had to offer: his son goes to Vietnam, she becomes a hippie, he becomes a neo-conservative, she becomes a career woman, etc. Years later Forrest Gump would attempt to do the same thing on a bigger scale, but without the poignancy of this film. It doesn’t always work perfectly, a lot of its setups are too obviously allegorical and would have been easier to swallow on stage, but the performances by the two leads are too good to keep it from being ineffective.