Period of Adjustment (1962)
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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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
Directed by George Roy Hill, one of the best! Known for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), The Sting (1973), and The World According to Garp (1982)
They just don't write dialog this good anymore, but what do you expect? It's Tennessee Williams.
I think it's fantastic. Great dialog, Sort of a Lost in Translation from the transition of the '50s into the '60s...a movie with a lot of heart. I think it captures the complexity of men and women quite beautifully. The ego, the pride, the spirit of each in a way that is not cynical, but realistic and uplifting.
it also seems to capture the best of the writing that Mad Men spent 7 years grasping for.
I rated it an 9.
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.