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An Unmarried Woman (1978)

A wealthy woman from Manhattan's Upper East Side struggles to deal with her new identity and her sexuality after her husband of 16 years leaves her for a younger woman.

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
Charlie
Patricia Quinn ...
Sue (as Pat Quinn)
...
Elaine
...
Patti
Linda Miller ...
Jeannette
Andrew Duncan ...
Bob
Daniel Seltzer ...
Dr. Jacobs
...
Phil
Penelope Russianoff ...
Tanya
Novella Nelson ...
Jean
...
Edward
Ivan Karp ...
Herb Rowan
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Storyline

Erica is unmarried only temporarily in that her successful, wealthy husband of seventeen years has just left her for a girl he met while buying a shirt in Bloomingdale's. The film shows Erica coming to terms with the break-up while revising her opinions of herself, redefining that self in its own right rather than as an extension of somebody else's personality, and finally going out with another man. Erica refuses to drop everything for Saul, an abstract expressionist painter, simply out of love for him because he expects her to. It is not so much loneliness that is her problem, and the problems that men, flitting around this newly "available" woman like moths round a flame, bring to her sense of independence. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She laughs, she cries, she feels angry, she feels lonely, she feels guilty, she makes breakfast, she makes love, she makes do, she is strong, she is weak, she is brave, she is scared, she is... an unmarried woman.

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

26 May 1978 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Una mujer descasada  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Mazursky: As Hal. See more »

Goofs

Erica orders white wine at the bar. She is given red wine and sips it. When she joins friends at their table, her wine is white. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[Martin and Erica are jogging along the river]
Martin: Jesus Christ! Look at this - my sneaker's ruined!
Erica: They're only thirty-five dollars.
[Erica takes Martin's shoe and cleans it off for him]
Martin: Fucking city's turning into one big pile of DOG SHIT!
[shouting at passing traffic]
Martin: Come on out and take a crap on me - everybody else is. Fuck.
[Martin lights a cigarette]
Erica: ...been jogging for 2 1/2 miles - you're giving yourself lung cancer.
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

For Betsy See more »


Soundtracks

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
(1976) (uncredited)
Written by Leo Sayer and Vini Poncia
Performed by Leo Sayer
See more »

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User Reviews

An Uninteresting Woman...
27 May 2004 | by (St. Louis, Missouri) – See all my reviews

Paul Mazursky's AN UNMARRIED WOMAN belongs to a minor genre of films from the late 1970s/early 80s mockingly referred to as survivor pictures. The said survival was of, well, everyday life -- dating, marriage, divorce, child custody battles, etc. -- as endured bravely by upper middle class urbanites. In essence, the movies finally recognized the day-to-day life that real people had been coping with since the beginning of civilized time -- and which television had been dealing with for decades on "As the World Turns," "Days of Our Lives" and "All My Children." Some of these attempts to find nobility in everyday survivors where okay (STARTING OVER), some tiresomely self important (KRAMER VS. KRAMER) and some just barely bearable, like AN UNMARRIED WOMAN.

WOMAN deals with Erica (Jill Clayburgh), a middle aged, middle class Manhattan housewife who suddenly discovers that her husband has fallen in love with a younger woman and wants a divorce. She responds with predictable anger and outrage, before settling down to the business of "surviving." Divorce is never easy, but as divorcees go, Erica has it awfully good. She is blessed with, in no particular order, a guilt-ridden ex-husband who churns out the checks; a supportive teenaged daughter, who apparently has little interest in her dad; an ad hoc support group made up of girlfriends who cheerfully share in male-bashing self-righteousness; and an indulgent female therapist adept at nodding her head in mechanical approval and dispensing dime-store encouragement. And when it comes time to get back into action, she has no trouble findings a couple of hunky guys, who, by the way, are artists, not boring old businessmen like her ex-hubby, Martin. In short, female bonding goes on all over the place and men are put in their place as convenient sex objects.

Indeed, divorce seems to be a blessing in disguise. Compared to the heroines of films like ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE or NORMA RAE, Erica seems to have it pretty darn good. And that is a major problem in the film: it is noticeably lacking drama. Had the film been played more for humor, then Erica's newfound awaking might have had a joyous kick. Instead, Mazursky labors to make serious, i.e., feminist statements about the travails of being a woman in contemporary America. But, boy did he pick the wrong woman to use as a poster child. Since Erica really doesn't have any discernible hardships in her life, the film falls back on the last refuge of feminist self-pity: self-esteem. AN UNMARRIED WOMAN is about Erica learning to feel good about herself. ZZZZZzzzzzzzz.....!

Maybe because I am a male, I found Erica's journey to self-awareness boring. Jill Clayburgh, who plays Erica, was the actress du jour of the era. She had the curious ability to seem sad even when she was happy and vulnerable even as she was being hard-bitten. Unfortunately, this is the way she came off whether the role required it or not. It is what the role of Erica required, but even so I have never found Clayburgh to be a particularly likable actress; she behaves like she is in the movies because she doesn't have a choice. She is not a giving actress. Erica seem perpetually annoyed that she even has to "survive" and Clayburgh acts as though she has something else she'd rather be doing.

Again, perhaps because I am a man, I found the relatively minor character of Erica's husband to be more compelling and more complex. Played by Michael Murphy like an extension of his role in Woody Allen's MANHATTAN, Martin is a cliche -- a middle-aged man walking away from a comfortable marriage in search of something to revitalize his life -- but as cliches go, it is a valid one. Murphy gives a glimpse of a man in emotional and philosophical turmoil; it is a performance that vividly reveals more in a few short scenes than Clayburgh does with all of Erica's tiresome whining. We see why he wanted out of his marriage to Erica, but not why he'd want back in.

Mazursky is not a great director or a particularly skillful writer, but he is even worse as an editor. He has no sense of pace and loves to let scenes ramble far beyond their point of impact. But in his best films, such as BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE, MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON and DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS he gently mocks self-absorbed, trendy twits. Here, instead of teasing the foibles of his New Yorker of choice, he embraces her. He wants us to know he understands feminine/feminist angst. In a strange way, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN is less about a woman or even women, than about a man trying to prove his liberal credentials by pandering to feminist stereotypes. As such, a film that strives to be realistic ends up being condescendingly phony.


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