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
The three daughters of a quiet attorney and an imperious matriarch are alternately offended and benumbed by their parents' divorce and their dad's "hasty" decision to remarry (leaving mama to fend for herself, probably something she needs but does not enjoy--there's no one to boss around). Ingmar Bergmanesque drama from writer-director Woody Allen, who does not appear or even feel present (Pauline Kael of The New Yorker claims his neuroses have been transposed to the mother-character, but I never felt like I was watching something created by Woody Allen). All the actors are quite fine playing characters who are high-strung, uptight, woebegone (yet oddly, never intentionally comical), yet the flatness of the dialogue and the listlessness of Mary Beth Hurt's frequent narration may strain some viewers' patience. Some of the wordy sequences tend to ramble, and what words! Allen has a fixation with non-textbook terms for multiple abnormal psychoses; and no matter how educated Hurt's character is supposed to be, I had trouble swallowing some of the high-brow talk in her third-act put-down of Geraldine Page. The movie--seriously well-scrubbed, sterile and somber--has many conflicts and personality quirks which feel real and intricate, and Page's high society dementia is riveting (alternately, Maureen Stapleton's gaudy low-class is also superb). The three sisters remain enigmas that confound and confuse (each other and the viewer) but Diane Keaton's gritty reserve as the eldest daughter is the one I gravitated towards. Not a masterpiece (as some critics claimed back in 1978), but certainly not a dud. It's Woody's art-house gambol, a dark one, and it leaves behind a fascinating imprint. *** from ****
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