Tag Archives: Mary Tyler Moore

Just Between Friends (1986)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Friends share same guy.

Holly (Mary Tyler Moore) and Sandy (Christine Lahti) become friends while attending an aerobics class. Holly then invites Sandy over to her home for dinner unaware that Sandy is having an affair with her husband Chip (Ted Danson). Sandy is equally unaware that the man she is seeing is her new best friend’s mate. After the awkward experience is over Sandy decides to call off her relationship with Chip only to have him die unexpectedly a little bit later. Sandy then tries to help Holly get back on her feet, but without ever confiding with her that she was at one time ‘the other woman’. When Holly is cleaning out her husband’s office she comes across incriminating photographs of Sandy and Chip together and decides to angrily confront her with it.

One of the biggest drawbacks to the film is the casting of Moore in the lead. She’s an actress I’ve always liked, but here she is too old for the part. She was already pushing 50 at the time and Danson, who was 11 years younger, comes off more like an older son than a husband. In fact the opening shot has an extreme close-up of her where you can clearly see the age lines etched on her face making her later conversation where she asks her hubby if they should have another child seem utterly absurd. The intended idea of showing how completely opposite Holly and Sandy are seems more like a generation gap than contrasting personalities and watching Moore in an exercise outfit is genuinely disturbing as she is too thin and her ribs jut right through her shirt.

Lahti’s character is crass and snarky and not at all likable. The idea that she would know nothing about the personal life of the man she was seeing isn’t believable. Now I’ve never been involved in an affair, but I would think if someone is really into someone else, even if it is as the other woman, they’d want to know as much about him as they could including having some knowledge about who he was married to instead of being completely in the dark with what they were up against.

The affair angle gets introduced too suddenly and then right away she gets invited over to Holly’s for dinner and the awkwardness ensues, which isn’t half as funny or compelling as it could’ve been. The film should’ve shown how the affair began as well as to why Chip was unhappy with Holly, which never gets thoroughly explained, and then had the dinner scene played out later on when the viewer was more engrossed with the situation and characters.

There is also a lot of embarrassing comedy that gets mixed into the already cringy drama and only helps to unnecessarily prolong the scenes. The satirical jabs at the on-air news talent are particularly poor as it exaggerates how dumb they are in a film that is supposedly trying to be realistic otherwise. I don’t exactly know what writer/director Allan Burns has against newscasters, but both he and James L. Brooks produced the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’, which portrayed Ted Baxter, the newscaster on that series, as being a complete imbecile and here the news anchors are shown in much the same way, but by this time it comes off like an old, overplayed joke.

Having Danson die in the middle was a big mistake as his character was the only thing that brought in any interesting dramatic tension and the film flat lines the rest of the way without him. Allan Burns had some success producing TV-series despite the dubious distinction of having created ‘My Mother the Car’, but clearly making movies was beyond his capabilities and it’s no surprise that he never directed another film after this one.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: March 21, 1986

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Allan Burns

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD (MGM Limited Edition Collection), Amazon Video, YouTube

Flirting with Disaster (1996)

flirting with disaster

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Biological versus adoptive parents.

Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller) is a middle-aged man on a mission. He wants to find out who his biological parents are and is willing to travel the country to find them. His wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) isn’t too happy about being dragged along and his adoptive parents Ed and Pearl (George Segal, Mary Tyler Moore) find his journey to be an insult to them. He uses the aid of part-time adoption agent Tina (Tea Leoni) to try and locate them, but her help only proves to lead him to a lot dead ends.

With the exception of Leoni the three female leads are good. Lily Tomlin has a funny moment as she tries to talk down the Richard Jenkins character from a LSD trip. Moore is fantastic playing a takeoff of her rigid mother role from Ordinary People. Every scene that she is in is hilarious and had she been in a few more she could have easily stolen the film. She wears a short reddish haircut and at times looks amazingly like Carol Burnett. Although she is not all that amusing Arquette is also quite good simply because she is the most believable of all the characters. Jenkins and James Brolin also have their moments as a bickering gay couple and Brolin’s arm pit fetish is great. It is also nice to see Stiller actually doing some acting instead of just playing a dull, average guy that simply reacts to all the zaniness around him, which is what he seems to pretty much do in most of his other films.

However, the movie seems more focused on being offbeat than it does in actually being funny. There is a great deal more misses than hits and the ones that do hit aren’t exactly uproarious. Leoni’s character adds little to the proceedings and her propensity at constantly leading Mel to the wrong people gets old pretty fast. There is also a glaring goof where Segal and Moore end up driving off with Tomlin and Alan Alda’s car since both couples drive the same make and model vehicle. Yet somehow they are able to use their OWN keys to start up the other car and even get into the other car’s trunk, which would not be possible.

This film could best be summed up as being the ‘sophomore jinx’ for writer/director David O. Russell since his first feature Spanking the Monkey was quite original as was his third one I (Heart) Huckabees. This film though tends to be over-the-top absurd without having any message or point to it.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 22, 1996

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: David O. Russell

Studio: Miramax

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video