Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1979. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by James L. Brooks, based on the novel by Dan Wakefield. Cinematography by Sven Nykvist. Produced by James L. Brooks, Alan J. Pakula. Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Production Design by George Jenkins. Costume Design by John Boxer. Film Editing by Marion Rothman. Academy Awards 1979. Golden Globe Awards 1979.
Candice Bergen is tired of being upper-middle-class housewife to Manhattan yuppie Burt Reynolds and has announced that she is leaving him. Her decision is validated by the fact that her ambition to become a singer-songwriter of shallow feminist anthems (who very hilariously cannot sing) is an immediate success, while he succumbs to loneliness and the occasional bad date. When he meets quirky Jill Clayburgh (the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl), he sees the chance to begin anew with someone he really clicks with but there are many obstacles in their path: she doesn’t trust him and, when Bergen dips back into his life and presents the possibility of reconciliation, he proves that she’s right not to. The late seventies boom in increasingly unstigmatizing divorce among the wealthier set is heartily exploited in this enjoyable comedy, written by James L. Brooks and directed by Alan J. Pakula, benefiting greatly from intelligent performances that smooth over the weirder jolts of satirical comedy in what is otherwise a subtle piece (like the idea that Bergen’s voice could get her anywhere in the world, even if she is a hot white woman, and the valium scene at the furniture store; other scenes, such as the parade of divorced women descending stairs while a handful of men in the same situation climb up it, cut deeper and smarter). Reynolds is particularly great as a man caught between generations and struggling to catch up with Modern Woman while also brandishing his studliness, but when the film requires him to get sweet and show feelings he does a terrific job of that as well. Mary Kay Place has a memorable supporting role as a disastrous dinner companion in a film that sympathizes with Reynolds while also making sure we understand that divorced men don’t have it as rough as their female counterparts (the Hollywood part is that there is a world out there where Burt and Charles Durning could ever be brothers).