ALAN ALDA ELLEN BURSTYN
Only two names are listed
above because there are only two real roles in this outstanding
1978 romantic comedy about a couple with "six children
between them," married to other people but in love with each
other. It was adapted for film from a two-character Broadway play
that I immediately mistook for a Neil Simon gem, but alas, the
credit must go to Bernard Slade. The couple accidentally meet in
1951 at the Sea Shadows Inn on California's Monterey Peninsula,
fall in love and agree to meet in secret at the resort the same
weekend every year for the rest of their lives. The movie spans
26 years in those lives, from 1951 through 1977, and shows how
they grow and change along with the rest of the country. One
critic stated that this is Alan Alda's very best work other than
M*A*S*H. I couldn't agree more.
GEORGE is a neurotic who doesn't get his
watch fixed because he "got used to it being 3 hours and 25
minutes fast" as he's a CPA and "very quick with figures."
He lives in New Jersey but flies out every year to do the taxes
of a friend who was his very first client. DORIS is on her way to
a Catholic retreat that she attends on her mother-in-law's
birthday while her husband takes the kids to visit the mother.
That's her gift to the mother-in-law who hates Doris because she
"got pregnant and caused her son to quit medical school and
get a job selling waterless cookware." They don't seem to
have much in common: Doris is Irish Catholic, and George is a
"wasp" ; George is a self-proclaimed "snob about
education" while Doris dropped out of high school, yet
there's instant chemistry between them:
"We're in big trouble, Doris. I
really think I'm in love with you, and I don't even know if
you've read 'Catcher in the Rye'...I don't even care."
There are a few other minor
characters in the movie with no speaking parts except "Old
Chalmers", the caretaker who grows old along with George and
Doris. When a movie is driven by character rather than plot, and
there are only two characters, the dialogue better be great, and
this is phenomenal. George, wracked with guilt after he wakes up
in bed that first morning with "the other woman" asks:
"Why do you have to look so luminous? I mean it'd make
things so much easier if you woke up with puffy eyes and blotchy
skin like everyone else." Doris : "I guess God
thought chubby thighs were enough."
There's a neat, very touching
gimmick that Slade uses: At every meeting George and Doris tell
each other two stories about their respective spouses: one
revealing the good side and one the bad. Over the years they come
to think of the spouses as mutual friends.
I never got the opportunity to see
the play, but I would imagine each "year" was an
"act" in the play. The movie is edited similarly.
Between each "meeting" we are shown film stills of the
era--they're all there to bring back both happy memories and
tears....Elvis, JFK, the Beatles, Nixon's resignation, the moon
landing, etc. In the background is a beautiful score featuring the music of Marvin Hamlisch and the voices of Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor. The love theme entitled, "The Last Time I felt like This" turns sad and haunting against a backdrop of 1960's violence as they sing about "dreams that swindle you while you sleep" and "maybe growing up is just kissing certain dreams goodbye."
Some people were offended by the
play/movie because it glorifies adultery. I think Slade was a
wise man. He knew what it takes George and Doris 26 years to
discover: people do make mistakes and marry the wrong
person, and later find their true soulmate. Early on in the movie
George says, "My life is a mess, but the figures always come
out right." (As an accountant that feeling is more than
familiar to me. ) Later in the film he confesses to Doris that
"all I know is that in 26 years I've never been out of love
You will laugh and you will cry.
Many movies touch our hearts....this will touch your soul as