Joshua Then and Now (1985)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

, 1985. , . Screenplay by , based on his novel. Cinematography by . Produced by , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , . Film Editing by .

Ted Kotcheff returns to the success of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz with another adaptation of a Mordecai Richler novel, with the great author once again transcribing his own work to the screen. is terrific as Richler’s semiautobiographical alter ego, a rough-hewn, proud but truehearted Jewish novelist whose success feels hollow thanks to the disintegration of his marriage to his beloved upper-crust WASP wife ().

Joshua reflects back on his origins, growing up in Montreal with an exotic dancer mother () and gangster father (a delightful ), then moves us ahead to the first steps of his writing career, moving to London and working for the New Statesman, and meeting Pauline (Lazure) at a gathering for fellow socialist-minded idealists.

She’s already married to a guilty son of privilege () who ignores his wife in favour of his unironic devotion to his politics, but it doesn’t take much for Joshua’s earthy charms to steal her away and marry her himself, which is followed very quickly by three children and a move back home to Canada.

Joshua’s friendship with a British writer (), Pauline’s issues with her immature playboy brother () and the rocky road towards acceptance from his father-in-law () are among the many subplots of this smoothly worked out, picaresque tale brimming over with Richler’s trademark bawdy but infectiously warm humour.

The central tension is the marital relationship, and the reconciling of the worlds that these two come from, both in dealing with their differences and in acknowledging where they are the same: sure, the furniture that his father delivered to their new house fell off the back of a truck, but her country club set’s crooked ways with stock portfolios isn’t that much better just because they never miss cocktail hour.

Marred only by the awkward choice of having Lazure’s voice apparently dubbed by another actress, which in some key scenes is very distracting, this is otherwise a flawlessly entertaining exploration of the mysteries of love, particularly its power to affect everything else that we try to keep busy at in this foolish existence of ours.

Cannes Film Festival: In Competition


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