Homage to Ingmar Bergman in this family drama involving a fashionable Long Island interior designer who tries to impose her overbearing, critical standards on her husband and her three grown daughters. The film is a realistic look at the relationships among one artistically-oriented family; one daughter is a successful writer; the second is looking for an artistic outlet; and the third is an actress. The mother has been deserted by her husband, their father. She thinks and hopes they may reconcile, but she soon learns that he has other thoughts that circle about a new acquaintance, a woman who has had two husbands and is still lively. Written by
Allen's first really serious film plays like an Bergman film. It's a dead serious study of a very dysfunctional family.
The father (E.G. Marshall) wants a trial separation from his wife (Geraldine Page). This totally destroys her life but her grown children try to help. One daughter (Diane Keaton) keeps giving her false hope that her husband will return. Meanwhile she has issues with her husband (Richard Jordan)--he finds her very condescending about his writing and she reacts with anger. Another daughter (Mary Beth Hurt) tries to get her mother to face reality. She has no direction in life herself and her husband (Sam Waterston) wants a child. A third daughter (Kristin Griffith) barely figures in this.
Somber, bleak, quiet and stark. Full of angry, unsatisfied people--the only humor is provided by Maureen Stapleton who shows up late in the movie. This film contains many emotionally vicious moments. It's unpleasant sometimes but you can't stop watching. The dialogue is great--full of fascinating insights into what the characters are feeling. Occasionally the actors sound like they're giving speeches instead of talking but that's rare. Marshall seems ill at ease in his role but everyone else is dead on target. Especially good are Page who is frightening--you can see her trying not to feel and control everything at the same time. Keaton is just superb--one of her best ever dramatic performances. A highlight is the last sequence between Hurt and Page.
The film sometimes seems over-directed--everything is so precise and ordered but it fits the tone of the movie. Also the ending is a little too pat and Griffith is given nothing to do--I often wonder what she was doing in this.
Still this is an exceptional drama. It's not for everyone--it may be too bleak for most people but I think it's Allen's best drama. A 10 all the way.
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