By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: A look at divorce.
After fifteen years the marriage between George and Faith Dunlap (Albert Finney, Diane Keaton) finally dissolves. He has been carrying on an affair with another woman (Karen Allen) and so he is forced to move out of their house and away from their four daughters. Sherry (Dana Hill) the oldest is angry at him and refuses to speak or even spend time with him when he has custody of the children, which starts to create major friction. Faith begins a relationship with Frank (Peter Heller) a handyman who has come over to build a tennis court in their backyard and when George finds out about this his simmering temper eventually boils over in an uncontrolled and frightening way.
If there is one thing you take away from this film it is in the luscious photography of the San Francisco bay area. The large, isolated two-story house looks almost like a dream location and was specifically built for the picture and filmed in Nicasio, California. The scenes showing George writing at his typewriter next to a window exposing crashing waves of the ocean and well as his pondering things in a small rowboat all alone in a still lake have the same dream-like quality and an ambience that allows for a rush to the senses.
The film also has an interesting music score because there is no composer credited for it even though it has pieces of simple piano interludes played throughout, which effectively reflects the mood of the film and characters and proves once again that less truly is more.
The family life scenes are on-target with everything from the perpetually chaotic atmosphere of four kids running around with endless energy to the always cluttered rooms and the mother seen picking up their discarded toys and clothes. The children are portrayed as being realistically perceptive and ask some pointed questions and not as naïve as most adults may like to believe. Hill is a real standout and her final meeting with her father late at night on a dock beside a lake is touching. Although she was 18 at the time because of her severe diabetes that stunted her growth she looks very much like the 13-year-old that she was portraying.
There are some memorable scenes including the amusing moments inside and outside a courtroom as well as Faith and George having a shouting match inside a fancy restaurant that ends up involving another couple sitting next to them. George’s angry tirade at the end in which he destroys the brand new tennis court with his car is exhilarating.
The only liability is with Finney himself. Normally he is a superior actor, but he is miscast here. For one thing there was too much of an age difference between him and Keaton and at times he almost looks more like her father. Weller who plays her boyfriend seems much more like her type and he would have been a better choice as the husband. Finney’s character borders on being unlikable and comes off at times as being a prick of the highest order. His blowups at Faith for seeing another man and at Sherry for not talking to him seem unreasonable especially since he started it all by having an affair. I did like the part though were he helps Timmy the young son of his new girlfriend late at night when he gets sick and the comment that his new girlfriend makes to him when he comes back to bed with her is a gem.
The film gives a great overall look at the emotional side of divorce, but it fails to dig any deeper. We gain no real insight to these characters or what caused the marriage to go bad in the first place, which ultimately makes this otherwise slick production rather shallow and placid.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: January 22, 1982
Runtime: 2Hour 4Minutes
Director: Alan Parker
Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube