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A Delicate Balance (1973)

PG | | Drama | April 1976 (UK)
A well-to-do Connecticut family is upended when the grown daughter's godparents, seized by a nameless terror, decide they've come to live with them.

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview:
...
...
Tobias
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Julia
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Claire
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Harry
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Edna
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Storyline

In Connecticut, Agnes and Tobias are an upper-class married couple whose relationship has been uneasy for many years, since at least the time their son died; but they've managed to find a certain comfortable pattern of uneasiness. Agnes's sister, Claire, lives with them and insists that her perpetual drinking is not alcoholism but willfulness. Their daughter, Julia, poised to have her fourth divorce, has come back home. Unexpectedly, her room has been taken over by Harry and Edna, best friends of Tobias and Agnes. Seized by a nameless terror that propelled them out of their own house, Harry and Edna have decided to stay. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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The sister who drank too much. The daughter who divorced too much. They're all there when Tobias and Agnes have their little get-together and tear-apart.

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Drama

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PG | See all certifications »

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April 1976 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Balansgång  »

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(Eastmancolor)

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1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kate Reid replaced Kim Stanley during rehearsals due to Stanley's erratic behavior. Reid would also play roles for which Stanley was original choice in This Property Is Condemned (1966) and Atlantic City (1980). See more »

Quotes

Agnes: Time! Time happens, I suppose, to people. Everything becomes... too late, finally. You know it's going on up on the hill; you can see the dust, and hear the cries, and the steel... but you wait, and time happens. When you do go, sword, shield... finally... there's nothing there... save rust, bones and the wind.
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User Reviews

 
Their Well Ordered Lives
30 July 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Probably were it not for the American Film Theater, that noble project which ultimately did fail of bringing productions of classical American works to film, we might never have seen A Delicate Balance. It's like a lot of O'Neill's work, it's all in the creation of the characters.

Certainly a play which consists of six characters sitting around and talking would not be considered anything film-able today. A Delicate Balance for me seems to take off in the same directions as Edward Albee's other classic, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and also bears no small resemblance to O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Both of those films however had bigger budgets and were made more cinematic by having the players move into various locations. The one set technique just doesn't work here. This is not for instance a story as gripping as Alfred Hitchcock's Rope or Rear Window. My guess is that the budget was blown on getting the high priced stars.

Paul Scofield and Katharine Hepburn play a pair of sixty somethings married and living in a posh Connecticut suburb, the kind of place Hepburn grew up in and knew well. Living with them is Hepburn's leach of a sister Kate Reid who they keep well supplied with alcohol and who lives there at Hepburn's insistence. Otherwise Scofield would have tossed this one out with the trash years ago. But he bows to Hepburn's wishes to keep peace and order, a delicate balance if you will.

They get two intruders in their well ordered lives one day. Their neighbors and long time friends, Joseph Cotten and Betsy Blair just ring the bell and announce that something unknown has frightened them in their home and they need to move out and move in with them. Scofield offers them his daughter's room.

But then daughter announces she's moving back after failed marriage number four. Needless to say that causes the balance to go out of whack. Lee Remick is the daughter and she's a selfish and spoiled suburban princess. After this everybody grates on each other's nerves.

Short and on plot, but deep on characterization is A Delicate Balance. It explores the problems of old age and loneliness. Cotten and Blair have no children and Scofield and Hepburn take little comfort in Remick. Perhaps if there were grandchildren things might be different for both couples. There was a son who died for Hepburn and Scofield and that seems to have cast a permanent pall over both of them.

Though Remick is blood kin, Hepburn and especially Scofield have more in common with their neighbors. How it all works out is for you to see A Delicate Balance for.

The film's saving grace is the wonderful performances by the cast. The original Broadway production ran for 132 performances in 1966-1967 and starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in the Scofield-Hepburn roles. But certainly Kate and Paul were going to sell more tickets than either of the other two worthy players.

Not that A Delicate Balance did much business back in the day. These films were for limited release in any event and if it's making money it's now in video sales and rentals. Still we can thank the American Film Theater for its preservation with some of the best preservers around.


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