Tag Archives: Jane Fonda

Comes a Horseman (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Ranchers battle for land.

Recently widowed Ella (Jane Fonda) must struggle to run her ranch in the middle of the desolate west by herself. Frank (James Caan) is her neighbor who is being harassed by Jacob Ewing (Jason Robards) to sell his land and Ewing has also made a strong play for Ella’s property as well. Both refuse his offers and then band together to defend themselves and Ella’s ranch from Ewing and his men who are willing to do anything it takes in order to get what they want.

The film’s main charm is its stunning cinematography by Gordon Willis who captures the expansive western landscape in breathtaking fashion and this is indeed one film that must be watched on the big-screen, or in widescreen to be fully appreciated. Director Alan J. Pakula instills a wonderfully slow pace with a minimum of music, which gives the viewer an authentic feel for what life out in the country during the 1940’s must’ve been like.

I also really liked the fact that Ella and Frank didn’t immediately fall-in-love and jump into bed together. Too many times films made during the post sexual revolution depicted characters from bygone eras as being far more liberated than they really were and here they’re authentically reserved and in fact they don’t even show any affection for one another until well into the story and when it does happen it seems genuine instead of just sexual.

Jane gives an outstanding performance. Usually she commands the screen and gives off a sexual allure, but here she literally disappears in her role of a humble farm woman until you don’t see the acting at all. Former stuntman Farnsworth at the age of 58 makes an outstanding film debut in a supporting role that will emotionally grab the viewer.

The story, which was written directly for the screen by Dennis Lynton Clark, lacks depth and has too many elements stolen from other similar films. Stanley Kramer’s Oklahoma Crude, which came out 5 years has almost the exact same plotline, but done in a darkly comic manner. Both deal with a man moving onto a woman’s ranch to help as a farmhand. The woman initially rebuffs the male’s advances, but eventually softens. Both deal with an oil company pressuring her to sell her land and harassing her when she doesn’t and they both have a memorable scene involving a windmill.  The oil subplot, particularly in this film seems rather unimaginative and like it was thrown simply to create more conflict while Ella’s past relationship with Ewing and the dark secret that they share should’ve been more than enough to carry the picture.

The one thing though that really kills the picture is the ending where Ella and Frank find themselves being attacked and in an effort to build up the tension loud music similar to what’s heard in a modern-day thriller gets thrown in. This had been a movie that had been very quiet up until then and it should’ve stayed that way. The actions seen on the screen was more than enough to horrify the viewer and no extra music was needed. Hearing nothing more than the howling wind on the prairie would’ve made it more effective as it would’ve reminded the viewer how remote the location was and how no one else was nearby to help Frank or Ella. For a movie that tried so hard to recreate the feel of a past era only to suddenly go downright commercial at the very end is a real sell-out.

The fact that all the night scenes were filmed during the day using a darkened filter is another letdown. There have been many films that have been shot in actual nighttime darkness so why couldn’t this one? If you want to see a film set during the same time period with equally captivating visual approach, but stays more consistent in theme then I’d suggest Days of Heaven, which was also released in 1978.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 25, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 59 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Alan J. Pakula

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, You Tube

The China Syndrome (1979)

china-syndrome

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: He senses the vibration.

Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) is a television news reporter who along with Richard (Michael Douglas) her cameraman gets a chance to go inside a nuclear power plant and film its operations. While inside they witness the plant going through an emergency shutdown when the coolant to one of the nuclear reactors becomes dangerously low. Richard secretly films the nervous reactions of the men in the control room during the incident and wants to broadcast the footage on the news, but the station managers refuse for fear they might get sued. Later Kimberly comes into contact with Jack (Jack Lemmon) who is a shift supervisor at the plant and he informs her that the welds on the pumps are compromised and could lead to a core meltdown at some point. Richard, Kimberly and Jack then conspire to somehow get this information out to the public before it is too late while also avoiding those who wish to silence them.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this film is the way it remains completely realistic throughout and never once compromises anything simply for the sake of cheap drama. The behind-the-scenes politics of an on air news show is quite fascinating particularly how it is decided what constitutes ‘news’ and what doesn’t as well as the staff’s pecking-order and how an individual reporter has limited say on what topics they can actually report on.

The inside of the power plant is impressive particularly the scene where Jack goes inside the massive pump room to investigate a leak. The control room looks quite authentic and the film’s final twenty-five minutes take place solely inside of it, which makes for a gripping climax.

The film also has the distinction of having no musical soundtrack. Other than a song by Stephan Bishop which is played at the beginning there is no other music to be heard and quite frankly I didn’t miss it at all. The sound of the power plant’s emergency alarm going off is all that is needed to create tension and having the closing credits scroll to a deadening silence leaves a powerful impact. Apparently a score was composed by Michael Small, but it was rejected and rightly so as I listened to some of it and it had way too much of a disco sound and didn’t fit the theme at all.

The stars are excellent, but I was surprised how Fonda’s part gets increasingly pared down as the movie progresses. Douglas steals it away from her during an angry confrontation with his superiors, but ultimately Lemmon is the real star even though it deceptively doesn’t start out that way. The supporting cast is equally good including Wilford Brimley as a loyal, but quiet employee, Scott Brady as the cantankerous plant manager and Richard Herd as the steely and conniving owner.

As for the merits of the film’s message it’s hard to say. What was once a hot/trendy topic during the ‘70s and ‘80s now seems long forgotten. However, the script still brings up many good points no matter what one’s political leanings are and it’s great to watch a film that can be intelligent and entertaining at the same time without ever going overboard on either end.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: March 16, 1979

Runtime: 2Hours 2Minutes

Rated PG

Director: James Bridges

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region 0), Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

California Suite (1978)

california suite

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Visitors at a hotel.

Based on the hit Neil Simon play, who also wrote the screenplay, the film follows five couples all staying at the same posh Beverly Hills hotel. Hannah and Bill (Jane Fonda, Alan Alda) are a divorced couple fighting over the custody of their teenage daughter (Dana Plato). Diana (Maggie Smith) is a famous British actress set to attend the Academy Awards ceremony and being escorted by Sidney (Michael Caine) a man she wants all for herself, but can’t because he is bisexual. Marvin (Walter Matthau) is in town to attend his nephew’s Bar Mitzvah and shocked to find that his brother (Herb Edelman) has sent a prostitute (Denise Galik) to his room to entertain him for the night only for her to promptly pass out drunk the next morning just as his wife (Elaine May) is about to arrive. The final segment deals with two bickering Dr’s (Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor) who can’t get along and seem to get themselves into one over-the-top calamity after another.

Many viewers have commented that they disliked the Fonda character as she came off as too cold and bitchy, but I’ve known many people who are like her who put up a very steely front in order to protect themselves emotionally, so for me her sarcasm worked and the way she delivered her acerbic lines is fun especially as she chews up the already transparent Alda character until it seems like he isn’t even there.

Smith and Caine’s segment seemed a bit trite and generic. The first part of it deals with her nervousness about attending the awards ceremony, which isn’t all that original. The second half examines her frustrations at the fact that Sidney can’t solely commit to her, but I couldn’t completely buy into this because she was playing a rich and famous, globe-trotting actress whom I’m sure could easily find another man if she wanted and didn’t have to cling to someone who didn’t fully want her like she were some lonely, small town housewife with no options.

The third segment dealing with Matthau and the unconscious prostitute is quite funny and had me laughing-out-loud while the scenes involving Cosby and Pryor’s constant arguing is incredibly dumb and even jarring as it features a lot of silly, slapstick humor that does not fit in with the more sophisticated tone of the rest of the film.

I was also not so crazy about the film’s pacing. The first hour deals almost exclusively with the dramatic segments while the second half focuses mainly on the comical ones, which came off as imbalanced. It would’ve worked better had the stories been evenly spread out in a rotating type fashion with a few minutes spent on each one before cutting to the next one. It would also have been cool had it taken a Slacker-like approach where the characters, who never once cross paths in this movie, would have instead passed by each other at certain points and the scene would then shift to the new characters that the other ones just passed.

I was also disappointed that we never get to see much of exterior of the hotel. We do see a bird’s eye view of it during the closing credits, but I thought shots of it should’ve been shown during the beginning. I have nothing against David Hockney’s artwork that does get used, but the hotel is a part of the film’s title and therefore should have taken precedence.

Overall though I felt it was a decent dramedy worth the price of admission. It also features a terrific and distinctive jazz score by Claude Bolling that I wish had been used even more throughout.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 15, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Herbert Ross

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Chase (1966)

chase 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: A town on edge.

Bubber Reaves (Robert Redford) has escaped from prison and looks to return to the small Texas town where he grew up in. It is there that his wife Anna (Jane Fonda) resides, but she is now having an affair with Jason (James Fox) who is the son of the town’s influential millionaire Val (E.G. Marshall). Deep-seated tensions that had long remained dormant eventually rise and boil over. The sheriff (Marlon Brando), who is not particularly popular with the locals, wants to bring Bubber back alive, but a certain group of men have other ideas and are willing to physically and violently stop the sheriff if they have to in order to get their way.

The film was notorious in its day for its behind-the-scenes discord that was almost as entertaining as the conflicts onscreen. Producer Sam Spiegal gave director Arthur Penn no authority over the final cut and screenwriters Horton Foote and Lillian Hellman who along with Penn where in constant disagreements over the story angles and character focus. Yet with all that going on the final product is still slick enough to remain entertaining and compelling.

Much of this can be attributed to the talented supporting cast. Janice Rule is spicy as the haughty husband stealer and Robert Duvall is memorable in an atypical role as a timid man who avoids all confrontation even when his wife (Martha Hyer) openly makes out with another man while right in front of him. Miriam Hopkins, in her second-to-last film appearance, leaves a strong impression as well playing Bubber’s elderly, but still feisty mother.

On the other end there is Fonda who is wasted in a small role that gives her little to do. Redford, with his All-American good looks is miscast and fails to reflect the grittiness of the rest of the characters. Brando’s presence is also a detriment as his patented moodiness becomes off-putting instead being the portal to the character’s ‘inner angst’ as it’s intended although the scene where he gets beaten to a pulp and then walks all bloodied out in front of the other townspeople who stare at him with indifference is an impactful moment.

The ending culminates with an explosive finale inside a junkyard, but the majority of the film lacks any action. It’s more of a soap opera than a chase, which makes the title misleading and even disappointing to those that may come into it expecting an action flick, which it isn’t. The setting is also supposed to take place in Texas and even though certain shots do resemble the Lone Star landscape it was actually all filmed inside the borders of California.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 17, 1966

Runtime: 2Hours 15Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Arthur Penn

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Leonard Part 6 (1987)

leonard part 6

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: One really bad movie.

Leonard Parker (Bill Cosby) is a former CIA agent who is now retired and running a restaurant in San Francisco while trying to reconcile things with his wife (Pat Colbert) and  keeping his college-aged daughter (Victoria Rowell) from marrying a man in his 60’s (Moses Gunn). Unfortunately for him a crazed vegetarian by the name of Medussa Johnson (Gloria Foster) has managed to somehow brainwash all the animals to kill people and Leonard is appointed the only person able to stop it. He is reluctant at first, but with the help of his ever supportive butler Frayn (Tom Courtenay) he puts on his action suit for one last adventure at saving the world.

The film, which was written by Cosby, starts out okay enough with a funny bit dealing with a shootout inside the kitchen of a busy restaurant, but then quickly devolves. Part of the problem is an over emphasis on Leonard’s boring domestic life and attempts at winning back his wife, which makes the whole thing seem like two movies in one. In fact the first 35 minutes are spent with Leonard acting very much like a Cliff Huxtable while arguing with his rebellious daughter about her lifestyle choices before it even gets into the spy/action part. When it finally does get into the adventure segment it becomes weird, surreal and confusing with some of the most pathetic attempts at special effects you’ll ever see.

The film also offers no backstory for how the Medussa character was able to ‘brainwash’ the animals even though one was sorely needed. Elmer Bernstein’s musical score is generic and is pretty much made up of bits and pieces of other famous scores from other films or shows including the theme from the 80’s medical TV-show ‘St. Elsewhere’. As for the spy spoofing aspect the film fails to be funny at all and comes off like no one involved in this ever actually watched a spy film to really know what they were trying to make fun of.

The weakest link is Cosby who gives a terrible performance that shows none of his charisma that he has brought to his other projects. He appears uncomfortable and completely upstaged by his supporting cast including even that of Joe Don Baker. Foster is great as the campy villain and it’s just too bad that her efforts had to be wasted in such a bad film. Courtenay is amusing in support, but his talents deserve better material. Jane Fonda is fun in a brief bit playing herself in a send-up of her 80’s exercise videos.

Director Paul Weiland shows some potential with a wacky, stylish design, but was unfortunately too intimidated to give Cosby any real direction and simply allowed the project to become an embarrassing self-indulgent ego tangent on the part of the star. Unless you’re in the mood for a really bad movie night I would suggest staying away from this one as there are hurricanes and tornadoes that are less disastrous than this.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: December 18, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Paul Weiland

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Rollover (1981)

rollover 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: What’s in account 21214?

Hubbell Smith (Kris Kristofferson) is the newly appointed president of Borough National a bank that is in desperate need of money. He meets Lee Winters (Jane Fonda) the recent widow of the former chairman of Winterchem Enterprises who is looking to obtain a loan in order to purchase a Spanish processing plant. Hubbell broker’s the $500 million deal with some Arab investors and uses the finder’s fee portion to keep his bank solvent, but suspicions are raised when the money goes into a secret account named 21214 that no one knows anything about and can’t access. When Hubbell does some investigating he finds troubling answers that could lead to economic world collapse.

Director Alan J. Pakula approaches this thing like it is another Klute using not only the same star as that one, but similar type of music. Some of the camera work is dazzling and artsy, but I wondered if this was done to help enhance the script, or simply camouflage all of its holes. The story itself is too talky with a heavy reliance of financial business dealings that could become confusing for the average viewer. The two main characters are rather generic and their passionate making-out is tedious instead of sexy. The action is minimal, which includes a scene where Fonda gets trapped in a limo that is driven by a bad guy that had the potential for being exciting, but unfortunately gets underplayed.

Kristofferson with his Texas drawl is an awfully odd casting choice for a hot shot Wall Street businessman. He grows on you as the movie progresses particularly with the way he remains cool and detached even as his business dealings go horribly awry, but I still felt there were a hundred other actors that would have been better suited for the role.

Fonda is excellent and in many ways badly outplays her costar. Her character though doesn’t make a lot of sense as she is supposedly this famous and highly respected actress, much like Fonda herself and yet wants to be chairwoman of this chemical company instead of just selling her share of the stock after the death of husband and go back to acting, which to me would seem a lot more fun.

In an effort to keep the plot moving the film takes a few liberties with the plausibility. One of the major ones is when Hubbell wants to find out about the secret account and does so by breaking into the office of his superior where he finds in his desk drawer a notebook that lists the computer passcode, which seemed too convenient. In reality I would think a programmer would have to be hired in order to hack the system, which would have taken longer to play out, but also if done right heighten the tension as well as the believability.

Spoiler Warning!!

The film’s biggest transgression is the ending itself, which has the Arabs pulling the money out of the secret fund, which causes mass worldwide economic turmoil and chaos. Not only does this seem to create a whole new movie, but it also minimizes the two main characters and everything that we watched them do for the past two hours. A much better ending would have had the characters come up with some way to avert the collapse instead of the gloomy pessimistic way that it does take, which seems overblown and hard to believe.

End of Spoiler Warning!

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 11, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan J. Pakula

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video

The Morning After (1986)

the morning after

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: She can’t remember anything.

Alex (Jane Fonda) is an out of work actress and alcoholic who is prone to black outs. One morning she wakes up to the find that the man lying beside her has been murdered. She isn’t sure if she did it or not as she can’t remember anything. She cleans up the place and then by chance meets Turner (Jeff Bridges) a former cop who tries to help her prove her innocence.

Starting out right away with her waking up to find the dead body doesn’t work. Some background to the character would have been better as without it the viewer doesn’t particularly care about the character’s predicament. It took me a long while before I could get into it and even then it was only at a lukewarm level. The laid-back and melodic jazz soundtrack doesn’t help. For a thriller it is completely out-of-place and as good as a director as Sidney Lumet is he seems to have problem in that area as the musical score selected for Family Business another film that he did was also a terrible choice.

The film has one interesting twist near the middle, but the pacing is so slow that whatever intrigue it gave me quickly subsided, which is the film’s biggest problem. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a thriller, mystery, drama, or love story. Too much time is spent dealing with Alex’s budding relationship with Turner, which isn’t interesting. By the time they do get back to the mystery you really don’t care anymore. There are also not enough suspects and I had figured out who the culprit was long before the revelation comes about.

Fonda is competent particularly in a teary-eyed emotional sequence where she tries to somehow justify her pathetic self-destructive existence. The character though is unappealing and it may take a while for the viewer to warm up to her if at all. I did like her in the blonde, puffy 80’s hairstyle, but at the half way mark she changes back to her more natural brunette look, which I felt made her look older.

Bridges character helps stabilize Fonda’s and in that regards his presence is helpful, but having them meet by complete chance and then having him get so involved in her quandary seemed implausible. It would have been better and made more sense had he been a longtime friend who she turned to in her time of crisis. Although Raul Julia has a less screen time he still adds a lot more energy than Bridges.

Kathy Bates, Bruce Vilanch, and Frances Bergen (Candice’s Mom) can all be seen in brief bits. I also want to mention Richard Foronjy who nails the caricature of a streetwise big city cop perfectly.

Although the film is now 27 years old it really isn’t too dated. Only two issues in this area come to mind. One is when Alex can’t get any money out of the bank because it is closed due to a holiday and there doesn’t seem to be any such thing as ATM machines. Another occurs when a police investigator asks the Raul Julia character if he is gay by using a derogatory term, which wouldn’t go over today. However, Julia’s comeback line “How bad do you want to know?” is a good one.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 25, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sidney Lumet

Studio: Lorimar Productions

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Tall Story (1960)

tall story

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: The game is rigged.

June Ryder (Jane Fonda) is a boy-crazy college coed who has her sights set on Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins) the star of the school’s basketball team. Ray ends up being as infatuated with June as she is with him and the two decide to get married, but before they do they purchase a motor home from Ray’s friend Fred (Tom Laughlin). Unfortunately they don’t have enough of the required money until a mysterious stranger gives Ray $2,500 to blow the upcoming game his team has with the Russians, which puts Ray in a difficult quandary.

The film has a nice fluffy appeal and was based on the hit stage play, which in turn was based on the novel ‘The Homecoming Game’ by Howard Nemerov. The college campus atmosphere for its time period seems realistic. It is refreshing to have the adult faculty portrayed as normal human beings relating to the students on a relatively equal level and vice versa as opposed to the trend that started in the 70’s and went full-throttle in the 80’s where adults in these types of films were written as preachy, oppressive, out-of-touch, authoritative humorless pricks. In fact Marc Connelly as Professor Osman was my favorite character as he looked and spoke like a true professor and helped balance the silliness by being the most normal of the bunch. Anne Jackson as the wife of Professor Sullivan (Ray Walston) comes in a close second and has some amusing moments and a few good comeback lines particularly near the end.

Fonda is perfect as a character lost in her own little world and enthusiastically going by the beat of her own drummer while oblivious to the consternation she causes to those around her. Initially the character is written a little too aggressively making her too deluded and like a stalker, but fortunately that gets toned down and she becomes likable enough. Perkins is great as her boyish counterpart and the two even sing a duet together.

The pacing is a bit poor. Initially it is very zany and fast paced making the thing seem almost like a live action cartoon, which doesn’t work at all. The film then slows down and becomes a draggy only to rectify things with a funny conclusion. If you like things that are cute and undemanding then this should work although the sequence in which Ray comes into the game and singlehandedly wins the game after the team is far behind is just too contrived and over-blown for even Hollywood standards. The humor is light and comes in spurts with some of it managing to elicit a few chuckles. One of the few interchanges that I liked consisted of:

June: “Did you know that elephants only mate once every seven years?”

Ray: “There are some that do it every six years.”

June: “They’re nymphomaniacs”

Spoiler Alert!

One of the biggest problems with the film is the ending as Ray decides to play in the game and win it for his team despite keeping the money that he was paid in order to throw it. However, there is just no way a criminal organization would let anyone keep that money especially when the other party did not uphold their end of the bargain. Most likely they would track down Ray and June and exact a very unpleasant revenge. However, the film never even touches on this and instead shows Ray and June buying the motorhome and riding happily off into the sunset while leaving open a major loophole in the process.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 6, 1960

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Joshua Logan

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

Any Wednesday (1966)

any wednesday 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Wednesday is hump day.

Ellen (Jane Fonda) is a single lady of thirty living in an apartment building in New York City that is about to be bought out. Ellen wants to remain there and the only way she can is if she allows the place to be purchased by millionaire John Cleves (Jason Robards) who will allow her to stay rent free just as long as Wednesdays remain available so he can use the place to bring in his lady friends for sexual trysts. John has been cheating on his wife Dorothy (Rosemary Murphy) for years and uses the excuse of ‘business trips’ to fool around with other women. John also has his eyes on Ellen and after he buys her place he succeeds in getting her where he wants her, but then young Cass Henderson (Dean Jones) drops in and much to John’s consternation starts to have an interest in Ellen and her to him. Things get really crazy when Dorothy also shows up and turns the thing into a madcap bed-hopping farce.

Although this is not one of her better known roles Jane is terrific. The character to me is believable. A young attractive woman living alone who is racked with insecurities and indecision is almost a given. In many ways she is like how the Cass character described her as a ’30-year old child’ and Fonda plays the part humorously with a very goofy whine and cry. Some may find the character offensive due to the fact that her only ambition is to get married and feels like she is ‘not a complete woman’ unless she does. She even asks Cass to marry her after only knowing him for a day, which may be extreme, but I felt in that era women were under that type of pressure and thinking process, which is why I bought into it.

The Cleves character borders on being highly obnoxious. He seems to feel that because he has a lot of money he can act arrogant and get anything he wants, which could easily rub most viewers the wrong way. Fortunately Robards manages to craftily infuse his charm into the performance, which therefore makes it tolerable.

Jones lends some nice stability and Murphy is surprisingly alluring. She was already 40 at the time, but is seen provocatively bathing in a tub, which was unusual since older women especially in that time period were never shown that way and she pulls it off in an interesting way.

Director Robert Ellis Miller tries to keep what was originally a stage play from getting too stagy yet the story really can’t hide its roots. I did like the bright vivid colors of the set and the way New York was captured in the spring time. However, the scene where Ellen and Cass go to a sunny park is initially nice, but I didn’t understand when they sat down on some swings that it had to cut away to them in front of a blue screen inside a studio. The blue screen technique, which is rarely done anymore, was always tacky looking. Here it was even worse because the actors were at a real park, so he should have just left them there.

The story itself is trite, but for the first half I found it enjoyable. An older man having an affair with a younger woman that at times acts like an adolescent was rather edgy for the period as was their open discussions about sex. The conflicts create some interesting tensions and character development, but falls apart in the second act.

Spoiler Alert!

The problem really comes when Dorothy finds out about the affair and instead of being upset by it treats Ellen like a friend and even lets her move into John’s mansion while Dorothy takes up residence in Ellen’s old apartment. However, nothing is ever shown in Dorothy’s personality to forewarn us that she would respond in such an unusual way and thus making this comic twist not as clever as intended. Yes, there is an amusing irony at having Ellen come back to her old place and feeling ‘betrayed’ at finding John and Dorothy in bed together, but having John rekindle his passion with his wife is forced and contrived ultimately making this as silly and forgettable as all the other fluffy romances from that period. Fonda’s terrific performance is the only thing that makes if slightly above average.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 13, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Robert Ellis Miller

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

Agnes of God (1985)

Agnes of God 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Meg Tilly is marvelos.

Sister Agnes (Meg Tilly) is a young nun found in a convent to have given birth to a baby who then dies. Martha Livingston (Jane Fonda) is the court appointed psychiatrist brought in to investigate the case, but as the investigation ensues it only seems to unearth more and more perplexing twists.

The theology is slight and the film, which is based on the Broadway play by John Pielmeier, approaches the subject matter in a very matter of fact way. It has the mindset that the majority of the viewers are non- religious or disgruntled ex-Catholics and portrays the church as a stubborn, age old institution that is slowly losing touch with our more modern sensibilities.

Yet, refreshingly, it also doesn’t try to tear down the church with every chance it gets. There is a certain level of respect and objectivity. The mother superior (Anne Bancroft) is shown to be very human and multi-faceted. She and Fonda make interesting adversaries. Their love-hate relationship is both interesting and enlightening. There is even a rare scene showing an excited young woman being inducted into the sisterhood as her proud family looks on.

Fonda, with her liberated modern woman persona, seems a very obvious choice to play the no-nonsense psychiatrist. She approaches the role with conviction, but her constant chain smoking seems affected and her emotionalism overwrought. I still say she is better suited for comedy like in Cat Ballou and Nine to Five.

Bancroft is solid as usual. Yet it’s Tilly that is really impressive. She portrays the innocence of her character with an incredible clarity and it’s almost astounding.

The mystery unravels well and keeps you intrigued. Yet the ambiguous conclusion is a bit disappointing. The drama side fares better. It poses a few good insights and ends with an interesting perspective. The film is well done on all levels even though outside of Tilly’s compelling performance there is really nothing that memorable or distinctive about it.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 13, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Norman Jewison

Studio: Columbia

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video