Pearl and Marty Kantrowitz (Diane Lane and Liev Schreiber) are a middle-class Jewish couple from Brooklyn who got married way too young because that's what nice middle-class people did in the early 1960's when the girl got pregnant. They along with their teenage brat Alison and 5-year old son Danny, and Marty's mother, Lillian, spend every summer the same way..at a Jewish resort with quaint cottages by a lake in upstate New York. (This film will remind some people of DIRTY DANCING because it is also set in the 1960's in a similar resort but the one in DD looks much nicer.) All the same Jewish families meet up there year after year to spend the summer playing cards or bridge on their porches or swimming during the day. At night they watch old movies in the makeshift movie theatre or there's dancing and entertainment by a hack comedian/wannabe singer in the bar/lounge. Various mobile vendors visit the camp during the day to hawk their wares and their arrival is always announced via PA system: "The ice cream man (or the blouse man)is on the premises." Marty is a TV repairman. (Remember them? Before there was a geek squad??)The most exciting thing in Marty's life is the contest between him and the other male guests over who can make the best time from the city to the resort.."three hours and 42 minutes with reubens on rye at the Red Apple". But he's the most lovable, big-hearted nerd who is content and happy, always goofing around, cracking jokes, and doesn't see anything wrong with their life or has no clue that Pearl is unhappy. Pearl regrets getting married so young without enjoying freedom, going to college, or having a career: "This whole decade's gone by and the most important decision I make in any week is whether to go to the A&P or Walbaums...sometimes I wish I was a whole other person." Her spoiled brat daughter who is obsessed with hippies and Joan Baez tells her she hates her; her friend who is childless gets trips to the French Riviera every winter; and while the other men work all week in the city but come back to the resort on the weekends Pearl is stuck with her mother-in-law and the kids. Marty has to work. It's July 1969 and the most exciting summer in US history...men are about to walk on the moon. Marty is stuck at work because everybody wants their TV repaired before the moon landing broadcast. Also, very close by the resort, a free rock concert is being planned for late August in a town called Woodstock. Pearl is desperate for excitement and to experience the carefree years she missed. Enter Walker Jerome(Viggo Mortensen) the gorgeous, hot new long-haired blouse salesman. And Pearl can't resist him.
The sex scenes between Pearl and Walker are hot, hot, hot. But this 1999 drama is about so much more than that. It has a real message about human nature and life choices. There's a sub-plot about the daughter trying to grow up too fast, etc. One of the producers was Dustin Hoffman, who only takes on quality projects. The dialogue is clever, and the acting is terrific. Leiv Schreiber is fabulous as the wronged husband who in the midst of despair can still joke: "You're screwing the blouse man? Jesus, Pearl, why not screw the dressman? At least you might get a whole outfit."  The soundtrack is a mix of early 1960's tunes like "The Name Game" and songs by bands that played at Woodstock like Richie Havens and Jefferson Airplane.
I love watching movies set in earlier historic periods because its fun to point out characters having to make phone calls at a pay telephone booth or marveling at a tiny portable TV that somebody's relative fighting in VietNam sent them from Asia.
An interesting note: a running "joke" in the film is about Walker Jerome's name being 'backwards'. I don't know whether it's coincidental or did Michael Patrick King, a writer for the TV series 'SEX & THE CITY' deliberately "borrow" the idea. But three years after this film was released, Samantha, a SATC character, in one episode picks up a gorgeous long-haired blonde hunk actor as a client and insists it will be good for publicity if his name was backwards: Smith Jared. Any SATC fans out there?? Another interesting note is that Viggo Mortensen plays a similar character to Walker Jerome in 'A PERFECT MURDER'with Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Douglas. He plays a hippie-like artist who is having an affair with a married woman.
I, like Pearl, regret many decisions I made when I was young, but when I start wishing I could be 'a whole other person' I have to remind myself of what Lillian (Tovah Feldshuh) asks Pearl, "You think you're the only one with dreams that didn't come true?" Something tells me I'm not.
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