By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: Wife frets over biopsy.
Gillian (Julie Andrews) is a singer who detects a lesion in her throat and goes to the doctors to have a biopsy done to see if it’s cancerous. The results of it won’t be ready until Monday forcing her to have to worry about it over the weekend. In an effort not to ruin things for the rest of her family she doesn’t tell them about it and puts on a facade like everything is fine. Meanwhile the other family members have their own problems. Harvey (Jack Lemmon), her husband, is depressed about turning 60, and not excited about the impending birthday celebration, or even being reminded of it. Her oldest daughter Megan (Jennifer Edwards) is going through the stresses of being pregnant while her younger daughter Kate (Emma Walton) fears that her boyfriend is cheating on her.
This was writer/director Blake Edwards first attempt at drama since the Days of Wine and Roses, which had also starred Lemmon. It was independently produced and thus requiring both the cast and crew to agree to work below scale, which caused controversy with the cinematographer’s union and created picketing at theaters in Hollywood when the movie was first released. The story was inspired by real-life events and problems that Edwards and his wife Julie were going through at the time as well as things that were happening with their grown children and the whole thing was shot on-location at the family home in Malibu.
Lemmon, the movie’s promotional poster is a play-on the one for Save the Tiger, the movie he won the Oscar for as Best Actor, is the only fun thing about it. His constant bitching about everything is amusing without being forced and his presence helps give it some needed energy and it’s great seeing him do a few scenes with his real-life son Chris Lemmon, this was the only project they did together unless you count Airport ’77 though they never shared any scenes in that one, who also plays his actor son here. The only drawback is that he completely overshadows Andrews to the point that you start to forget about her even though technically she’s the protagonist that we’re supposed to be the most concerned about.
While the movie is meant to analyze the day-to-day realities of the human condition it does throw in some ‘comical’ side-stories that are really lame and end up dragging the whole film down. The first is Harvey’s relationship with Janice (Cynthia Sikes) a woman who has hired Harvey, who works as an architect, to design her dream house though her demands are constantly changing and many times unrealistic. Had this segment stopped there then it would’ve been insightful and humorous as many clients can make unreasonable requests, but since it’s ‘their money’ the person working for them feels the need not to speak up and go along with the crazy demands for fear they’ll lose out on the deal, which happens more than you think. However, the scene also has her coming on to him sexually, which made no sense. Harvey was significantly older than her, looking more like he was 70, with no guarantee that he could perform, which he ultimately can’t, so unless she had some sort of grandpa complex why would this highly attractive young woman, who could easily find a good-looking guy her age, even think about getting it on with this old duffer that virtually any other woman her age would consider ‘gross’?
The second ‘comical’ scenario is equally stupid as it features Lemmon’s actual wife Felicia Farr playing a psychic who has a sexual encounter with him at her place of business all for the measly price of $20 for a ‘reading’, but how often does this type of thing occur. I mean I’ve gone to a psychic a few times in my life, but it never turned hot-n-heavy; am I just missing out? She later has sex with one of Harvey’s friends making it seem like sex was all that she was into, but how long could she realistically retain the psychic facade before it all came crashing down and she was known simply as being the cheap neighborhood hooker? Why does she even bother with the phony psychic act at all? Why not just become a high-paid escort where she could be making a hell of a lot more money.
The third side-story deals with Harvey finding that the priest, played by Robert Loggia, whom he is confessing his infidelities to is actually his former college roommate that he hasn’t seen in decades, which again is pushing long odds not very likely to happen. The old friend angle doesn’t add much and actually would’ve been funnier had the priest remained someone he didn’t know and Harvey could feel that his confessions were completely confidential only to then get called up to the pulpit during a church service, like he does here, to read a Bible passage about infidelity, and thus getting the shock of his life that this supposedly benign man of the cloth may be on to him and his divulged sins not so safely protected.
The film’s wrap-up has all the problems getting neatly resolved, which gives it a sitcom quality. I was okay with Andrews learning that the lesion was not cancerous, but some of the other dramatic tangents that the family members went through should’ve not all worked out so nicely, because in real-life, which this film is attempting to be, things don’t always have happy endings. In fact this is what works against it as it’s too sterile for its own good. Nothing stands out making it a shallow, flat drama without much depth. Much like Gillian’s lesion it ultimately becomes benign.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: October 10, 1986
Runtime: 1 Hour 42 Minutes
Director: Blake Edwards
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: DVD-R, VHS