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I fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it on TCM. I've always liked Jane Fonda, she is great in this picture. Its well acted and filmed. Its a beautiful movie. I liked the realistic look of the film. In digital it looked brand new, it looked as if it was modern film shot in B&W. Basically its about a couple having marriage problems. Its mostly a one scene shoot with a lot of dialogue. I really enjoyed it, like all Tennessee Williams play adaptations. This is a great movie for repeat viewing.
A young Jane Fonda, plays an incredibly naive, but good hearted nurse
in a military hospital, who meets a Korean war combat pilot and marries
(Jim Hutton)with the belief that he is "recovering" from "nervous"
condition caused by his combat service. Hutton's actual problem is that
he is in denial that he is still a virgin.
The movie based on a Tennesse Williams play is set in a suburban home around Christmas time. Hutton and Fonda arrive unannounced on their still unconsummated honeymoon. Hutton is seeking answers to his marital situation from his old buddy (Anthony Frcanciosa) who is in the middle of a marital problems of his own making. It seems Franciosa's wife suspects that he was influenced to marry her because of her Father's business. A not too difficult assumption to make, since her Father had married her maternal grandmother for the same reason.
The incorrect assumption that Fonda is Franciosa's girl friend makes some funny scenes for an actress not known for comedy.
Jim Hutton is perfect in this role. On the surface he is the all American poster boy of the Air Force pilot. He brings out the serious side of this movie when he finally comes face to face with his own real problem. That being the combat between the sexes which requires a "period of adjustment" whether the relationship is casual,or a life long marriage.
This movie has great acting, its funny yet serious, and it has a plausible yet happy ending. Its B & W without any special effects, about sex, without sex scenes, and does not have a message, other than people do imperfect things because they are imperfect. Their actions are not caused by some failure of the government or their education.
This movie will stand the test of time, because it is about people living in their time, with their customs.
That's my message.
Based on a play by Tennesee Williams, the story revolves around two
couples-one that's fun to watch, and one that drags. Jim Hutton (Timothy's
dad) and Jane Fonda play George and Isabelle Haverstick-a simple,
bull-headed young buck and his high-maitenance southern belle bride who drop
in on his 'ol war buddy (a handsome Tony Franciosa) married to an unhappy
rich girl (Lois Nettleton fleshing out a very difficult role) around
Christmas. Jim and Jane inject their characters with enough exuberance to
shoot them to the moon; thus, they expose the rather bland quality in Ralph
and Dorothea even though Tony and Lois are fine actors who do what they can.
Director George Roy Hill tries to keep the action from being too stagy and
is generally successful, though less so in the second half.
The main attraction here is Fonda: playing a sweet, jittery mouse with surprising outbursts of anger, she turns in a memorable comic performance. The desperate phone call to 'Daddy', her initial introductory scenes with Hutton, a tragic attempt to get her 'little blue zipper bag', and the first meeting with the Baitz's dog are beautifully done with gusto. If you look at her work here along with Barbarella, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Klute, and Julia-you'll see she had that rare quality few leading movie stars have: the ability to be a damn good character actor.
The movie's harmless fun and I recommend watching it under a blanket with a hot cup of cocoa, a roaring fire, and a lighted Christmas tree. Please read the review submitted by Eric Chapman. Enjoy!
Watching this undeservedly forgotten Tennessee Williams play turned into a
movie, it occurs to the viewer how so many other writers, some of them quite
good and talented, are still merely scratching the surface. Williams digs
and digs until he hits the paydirt of his characters' true selves, the ones
they keep hidden behind all their rusty but dependable defense mechanisms.
Williams writes in such a way that something extraordinary seems to be
revealed in each scene; characters are constantly surprising each other, and
themselves, with the clarity of their insights.
Set at Christmas, the film delves into the crumbling relationships of two sets of couples, whose fortunes and outlooks quickly become intertwined. Jim Hutton and Jane Fonda are the mismatched newlyweds who begin to have trouble the moment he kisses her (somewhat harshly) on their wedding day. He's suddenly insensitive, even brutal, and she becomes hyper-sensitive and highly emotional and it appears that by the time they reach their honeymoon destination they will be at each other's throats. Anthony Franciosa plays an old war buddy of Hutton's whose unstable marriage to plain Lois Nettleton ruptures when he rashly decides to quit working for a man he has long held in contempt: her petty, penny-pinching father. Unimaginably ignoring his beautiful though high-maintenance young wife (and Fonda is at her most luscious and desirable) Hutton interrupts his already nightmarish honeymoon to see his supposedly more established friend with whom he is anxious to enter into a business partnership.
And this is where things get very interesting as Franciosa balances his own feelings of attraction towards Fonda with his sympathy for the young couple's necessary but often painful "period of adjustment". Franciosa does a nice job anchoring the film; proud and defiant with his quarreling family members, but wise and protective with the feuding newlyweds. Hutton does good work too in a tricky not always sympathetic part. And Fonda is wonderful as the fragile southern belle with the hilarious attachment to her "little blue zipper bag". Lois Nettleton could've gone the Shelly Winters route and played her housewife as dumpy and pitiful, but she bravely goes for vulnerably dignified instead. Though she knows she was married for her father's money, you believe Franciosa when he tells her that she has "improved in appearance" and that he has indeed grown to love her.
Described as "heartwarming" by Leonard Maltin, it's still not terribly surprising that this has not become a perennial Christmas favorite. It does represent Williams at his "lightest" but it's too emotionally punishing to be viewed by the whole family like say "A Christmas Story" or "White Christmas" as the kids are putting up the tree. There is a brilliant but agonizing scene towards the end, where both couples are driving along in a hearse, and the older couple up front believes that the other two in back can't hear the raw, uncomfortably honest conversation they're having due to a supposedly soundproof dividing window between them. But they do hear all too well, and it gives them a brand new perspective on their own marital difficulties.
It is, however, an off the beaten path Christmas gem refreshingly free of false sentiment and schmaltzy resolutions. And there is a terrific running gag involving a bunch of tipsy carolers who just can't refuse all those neighborly offers to come in and have a drink. I think, and I could be wrong, that Williams employs the holiday setting as a harness for some of his darker impulses.
I am amused that this film based on Tennessee William's work got
nominated as a comedy for two different cinema awarding bodies. If this
is a comedy, so would Albee's "Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf" be
termed a comedy. Can this work be called a black comedy? Even this is
doubtful--you could call "MASH" a black comedy but not "Period of
The play made me sit up, not laugh. The play may not be of the same caliber as William's other work like "The Night of Iguana" or "The Streetcar named Desire" but it forces the audience to look inwards. Unfortunately, director George Roy Hill in his first regular film effort as a director does not display the capability that he showed in directing his later films ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," "A Little Romance," etc.). He fumbles with his editing: the shift of scene from the Baitz' to the Haversticks on stage would have been aided by a curtain or the lights going off, but in this film the switch from Fonda/Hutton to Franciosa/Nettleton is too abrupt and confusing. Yet Roy Hill shows his capability of eliciting fine performances from his cast, especially Jane Fonda (as he did later with Redford, Newman and Lord Laurence Olivier), and the dog!
Viewing this film 40 years after it was made, one cannot but appreciate the values of Tennessee Williams (and George Roy Hill) and the subject under discussion. How many contemporary directors would venture to make a film of the play today?
The film is fine entertainment value for those who like a good play on film (you need cinema to show visual shock of viewing the hearse for the first time, the stage can never provide the same effect).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As the film opens we see right at the offset that the marriage between
"shaky-hands"George(Jim Hutton;a problems that resulted from his war
experience in Korea)and Isabel(a smoking Jane Fonda at the early part
of her career)is rocky. But, the home they are headed for in Florida
holds a marriage coming apart at the seams. Ralph(Anthony Franciosa)and
Dorothea(Lois Nettleton)are having problems of their own. Ralph has had
enough of his boss, and Dorothea's father, and tells him his thoughts
about the crusty old man and where he can take this job. Other things
underneath the surface, though, lead Dorothea to leaving Ralph such as
his quitting his job, the way he wishes for his son be treated like a
male than a sissy(I felt this was an intentional Tennesse Williams
subtle plot point about parental homophobia)..his son is given girlie
toys instead of a football or other more manly presents. We watch as
these four characters face personal demons in a night of not only
bitter feuding, discussion, and, most importantly, reflection. The main
question is can both marriages survive? Like a lot of films based on
plays, this shows characters searching their souls and trying to become
honest with themselves and the faults that guide them into unusual
terrain. We watch as they try and sort out their emotions by talking.
We see an age-old ordeal in the Ralph and Dorothea marriage..the
in-laws butting in and causing further conflict. That alone casts a
foreboding shadow Ralph wishes to escape. Also, the "ugly duckling"
aspect regarding how Dorothea feels about herself is also a little
ordeal that plays out in the film as she questions whether Ralph wants
to remain in a "love-less" marriage.
George is a fragile man who met his wife Isabel in a mental hospital where doctors tried to find the reason for the consistent plague of shakes that take over his hands(it would probably acute to panic attacks that many suffer today). He talks a big talk, even tries to play out his aggressiveness, but he's weak and really does need Isabel even though he pretends to acts all macho. Isabel has such a wonderful personality, but her insistence to be heard and appreciated, at times, weighs a bit on George.
So we see that each person has to come to terms with each other's faults and problems. This film has a tendency to over-exaggerate it's message(..and is a bit syrupy at times)and lays on the melodrama a bit thick. It still has a more adult theme to it and touches on some very important things every marriage faces. It's always interesting seeing Fonda in these early roles before she becomes engulfed in the hippie lifestyle of the on-coming Vietnam war.
Watched this again yesterday and I guess I never really paid much
attention to it before. Even though I claim to dislike movies made
based on Tenn. Williams plays, I have seen most of them (I dislike the
intensity most of the time even though there are usually good
performances that sometimes tend to be over the top--and this one is no
exception.) However, I found this one a good film about 1950-1960's
marriages before women realized they had other options. I laughed at
Fonda, cringed at Hutton, sympathized with Nettleton but the greatest
surprise was Tony Franciosa. Probably one of the best things about the
movie was him. Although not exactly likable, he combined the sides of
most men--mature by experience but a little despicable in intimate
relationships. Mable Albertson and John McGiver were great in
supporting roles as the disapproving in-laws.
There was a couple of things in the movie that kind of bothered me though--and they are minor things. For one thing, if they're in the South, it's a pretty good bet that there's no snow at Christmas. I've lived in the South all my life and don't ever remember a White Christmas. But to the credit of the performers, they all have pretty good Southern accents. Another thing was Hutton's character. I had a hard time with him having such a beautiful wife (and Fonda does look great in this) and treating her so miserably. I realize it was all bravado but it still didn't sit well with me. Too much ego and not enough understanding. I suppose it was a reflection of the times but still wasn't pretty. It's hard to like someone who's pretends to be overconfident when it's obvious they have problems that need to be addressed. I guess it's called denial.
A point in favor of the movie is that it wasn't set in the steamy South because that's one of the things that turns me off about Williams' movies based on his plays. Everyone seems to be required to be hot & sweaty. Yuck.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You forget what a great actor Tony Franciosa was, after all the hokey
TV stuff he did.
In this movie, adapted from a Tennessee Williams play, you get a great picture of two marriages, one just beginning on a false precept and one almost ending on a false precept.
This movie unfolds very naturally and isn't forced. If it's tender or comedic it's because that's how the characters are at the moment, not because of "one liners." I have not seen a Tennessee Williams movie that was not a drama. Streetcar, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, etc. He's actually such a great character developer that this movie works outside of what I consider his norm.
What also amazed me is the very adult subjects that get discussed. Used to be you could discuss these things without being vulgar...imagine that.
It's a wonderful little movie and worth a view.
Jim Hutton and Jane Fonda are a pair of newlyweds, she's a nice, but
not terribly bright young lady and he's a bit of a blow-hard. But it
will all work out they're told because they're just going through a
Period Of Adjustment to each other and to their new status as marrieds.
But the viewer might not think so at first when after a minor quarrel mushrooms the two of them arrive unexpectedly at the home of Hutton's Korean War buddy Tony Franciosa on Christmas Eve. But he's having some marital problems of her own. His wife Lois Nettleton has just walked out on him, taking their young son with him. As gently as he can put it, Franciosa's not one for giving marital advice, especially not at this time. But war breeds some interesting bonds and what's an old army pal to do?
Tennessee Williams whose work is usually heavily laden with dramatic angst about sexual issues, takes a lighter tone in Period Of Adjustment and while it might not always work the film does have some good laughs in it. Of course I'm a bit prejudiced with the presence of Anthony Franciosa in the cast, one of the best and most underrated actors around. Jim Hutton also proves to be a good comedian.
I was a bit confused however because the play was written and debuted on Broadway in 1961 where it ran 132 performances. Hutton looks to be a bit young for a veteran just coming from the war and Williams doesn't really date the play as 1953 when the war ended. I'm sure revivals of the play have made appropriate corrections for the Vietnam War, Gulf War, Iraq War whatever war as Hutton's character says they're working on starting now.
Part of the problems that Franciosa and Nettleton are facing is that he really didn't love her when he married the richest girl in town, but was looking for a leg up economically and socially. He's made a bad bargain, now having to be under foot and dominated by Nettleton's parents, John McGiver and Mabel Albertson. Turns out though that McGiver made the same kind of bargain back in the day.
I can't forget a very adroit performance by Jack Albertson as a philosophical police sergeant when the whole kit and kaboodle of the cast winds up in front of him on Christmas Day. If they didn't make his Christmas merry, they sure made it interesting. I think Tennessee Williams borrowed from Garson Kanin in My Favorite Wife drawing from Granville Bates's performance as a judge.
Period Of Adjustment is not one of Tennessee Williams better works, but there's still enough of his ideas in the play to satisfy his admirers, even if they are served on the funny side.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie. OK, maybe it's not the most warm and fuzzy movie ever set on Christmas Eve, but the way it ended was beautiful. I really enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces in these roles - Tony Franciosa, Jane Fonda and Lois Nettleton, of course; but also Darin Stephens' mom from "Bewitched" as Dottie's mother, Timothy Hutton's Dad as George, "The Man" from "Chico and the Man" as the police sergeant, etc. Even the props were familiar - I have the exact same "Merry Christmas" banner that hangs on the Baitz fireplace, inherited from my parents! I loved the way that the carolers continued to get progressively drunker with every house they visited. This is a Tennessee Williams' "It's a Wonderful Life" if you ask me!
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