Tag Archives: Kristy McNichol

Only When I Laugh (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Actress is an alcoholic.

Georgia Hines (Marsha Mason) has just been released from a 12-week alcohol rehab program and returns to her Manhattan apartment looking to readjust to civilian life with the help of her two friends; Jimmy (James Coco) a gay unemployed actor and Toby (Joan Hackett) a woman unhappy at turning middle-aged. To Georgia’s surprise Polly (Kristy McNichol) her 17 year-old-daughter shows up wanting to move in with her and ‘patch things up’ from their tumultuous past. Georgia isn’t sure she’s emotionally ready, but forges ahead and things start out okay, but then the demons from the past rear their ugly head forcing mother and daughter to face some harsh realities both about themselves and each other.

The film is based on Neil Simon’s Broadway play ‘The Gingerbread Lady’ that starred Maureen Stapleton and ran for 193 performances. It was not considered a success and when adapted to a film Simon made changes to the story, but to me it all seemed like every other Neil Simon dramedy that he’s done before. Both this film and The Goodbye Girl that also starred Mason featured male characters that were struggling to become professional actors. Both this film and Chapter Two, which again starred Mason, had characters who were playwrights going through writer’s block. His films always take place in New York and have characters who see analysts, and can apparently make enough to afford them. I realize there’s the old adage ‘write what you know’ and that’s exactly what Simon is doing, but it would be nice if he’d get a little bit out of his comfort zone as nothing that gets shown here seems fresh or original.

The first hour is way too serene and I would’ve expected much more of a frosty relationship between mother and daughter, but instead for the most part they get along great, at least initially. There are some passing references to previous drama, but I felt this should’ve been shown and not just talked about. The second half improves significantly with some strong scenes, but I’m afraid that with such a lifeless beginning most viewers will have fallen asleep before it even gets there.

McNichol is excellent and every bit Mason’s equal, but this exposes another of Simon’s weaknesses, which is that although he’s good at writing character parts for adults he seems unable to do so for anyone younger. In The Goodbye Girl the Quinn Cummings character seemed too infantile for a 10-year-old and here McNichol is more like a 20-something and the intended mother-daughter drama more like just two girlfriends rooming together.

Coco and Hackett are excellent and help hold things together and the movie does manage to deliver, at least in the second-half, but I couldn’t help but feel that Simon had gone to this well too often and was starting to lose his edge. You can also spot young Kevin Bacon as a college dude trying to pick and Mason and McNichol as they eat at a café.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 25, 1981

Runtime: 2Hours

Rated R

Director: Glenn Jordan

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available:  DVD-R, Amazon Video, YouTube

Little Darlings (1980)

little darlings

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Competing to lose virginity.

Ferris (Tatum O’Neal) is a prissy girl from a rich family who attends summer camp along with Angel (Kristy McNichol) who’s more brash and streetwise. The two get into a competition to see who can lose their virginity first. The rest of the girls in the camp take sides and place bets.  Angel sets her sights on Randy (Matt Dillon) a cute boy from a neighboring boy’s camp while Ferris goes after Gary (Armand Assante) who is one of the adult camp counselors.

The film is for the most part okay and amounts to nothing more than a slice-of-life glimpse at adolescent girls and the snotty and sometimes peculiar ways that they perceive things. Most movies that portray this age group go too much to one extreme either by showing them as being overly bitchy or too innocent, but this film manages to find just the right balance making their conversations and overall scenarios believable and amusing.

I especially liked Krista Errickson as the spoiled and snobby drama queen Cinder. Normally these types of characters can be quite annoying and overplayed, but Errickson makes it fun and a major plus to the movie.

The film also has a few funny scenes including the one where the girls steal an entire condom dispensing machine from a men’s bathroom and then take it back to camp where they have to smash it with crowbars in order to finally open it. The massive food fight in the cafeteria is a hoot as well.

McNichol is excellent particularly with the way she can become teary-eyed seemingly on cue. I also enjoyed Alexa Kenin an engaging actress that died under mysterious circumstances at the young age of 23 who plays Dana here and helps ‘coach’ the two on what it is like to have sex. This also marks the film debut of Cynthia Nixon playing the hippie girl Sunshine.

The dramatic moments between Angel and Randy help give the film a little more depth and dimension, but also completely ruins the comic momentum. I also felt the film could have been funnier and didn’t take enough advantage of its setting or plot.

The Armand Assante character is another issue. Although he does not have sex with Ferris she does let it get around the camp that he did, which these days would have him fired and thrown into jail before he would even had a chance to defend himself. Although the girls do finally go and tell the truth later on I felt seeing him still working at the camp at the end while acting unblemished from it seemed to be a bit of a stretch.

I was also stunned that this film was given an R-rating. I realize the storyline is a bit titillating, but there is not nudity or sex shown as well as no violence or foul language. The sexual conversations that do occur are never explicit or crude and overall the film has an innocent quality to it.  13 and 14-year-olds do talk and think about sex as they certainly did when I was growing up and that shouldn’t make this an ‘adult movie’.  In fact I think young teens would be the ones to find this movie the most appealing as adults are likely going to consider it rather banal. The R-rating unfairly prevented the target audience from viewing it and showed just how misguided, useless and confusing the rating system can be.

This film has attained quite a cult following namely for the fact that it has never been released onto DVD and most likely never will. Part of the reason for it is because of its musical soundtrack and the licensing agreements that come with. There are some good tunes here including Ian Matthew’s ‘Shake It’ that opens the film as well as Blondie’s ‘One Way or Another’. Unfortunately other classic rock songs that were on the theatrical version failed to make it onto VHS, which is the only format this film can currently be seen on.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 21, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ronald F. Maxwell

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS