Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1978. Cyclops. Story by Claudia Weill, Vicki Polon, Screenplay by Vicki Polon. Cinematography by Fred Murphy. Produced by Claudia Weill. Music by Michael Small. Production Design by Patrizia von Brandenstein. Costume Design by Susan Becker, Jody Cyd-Cooper, Bonnie Daziel. Film Editing by Suzanne Pettit. Toronto International Film Festival 1978.
Melanie Mayron‘s starring debut was this low-key charmer that made impressive waves on the late seventies indie scene, including winning the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto film festival. She and Anita Skinner play best friends and roommates, one an expressive, neurotic Jewish photographer and the other a contained, neurotic WASPy writer whose relationship is put to the test when Skinner marries Bob Balaban, moves to the suburbs and has a baby. Writer-director Claudia Weill’s art house Beaches and Frances Ha precursor is smart for avoiding simplistic jealousy/resentment plotting and instead knows that it is the two women trying to convince themselves that everything is business as usual despite life changes that causes massive amounts of self-doubt, frustration and conflict between them. It also inspires some strange life choices on Mayron’s part, including flirting with a rabbi (Eli Wallach) before sabotaging the healthy prospect of dating a very young Christopher Guest. A few scenes play with the false notes of carefully scripted dialogue, but most of it feels spontaneous and fresh and shows off the charms of its lead actress, who still doesn’t have the control she would display so beautifully in later films (and particularly her outstanding work on television’s Thirtysomething) but is endearing and charismatic all the same.