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An Unmarried Woman was one of the best films from the late 70s/early 80s.
so completely captures a time and a place. It is a personal, perceptive
story of a
woman's marriage which crumbles to her total surprise. It ends up being a
of comic--Americanized version (or more specifically New York version) of
"Scenes from a Marriage". Throughout the film we are introduced to one terrific personality after another--each distinctively drawn. From her affluent circle of friends, to the quirky, genuinely intriguing artistic types of the downtown art scene (Soho before it became SO commercial), to the assorted people she
meets on her journey of coping and understanding such as her therapist
(portrayed by the great psychologist and author, Penelope Russianoff, who was a fixture on New York's Upper Westside for years), we are treated to a wealth of fascinating characters. The movie resonates with warmth and understanding.
Jill Clayburgh's Erika is a contemporary tragic/comic heroine. She's beautiful and classy and funny and her emotions--for anyone who has gone through
divorce or separation or simply difficult marital situations--are absolutely dead- on accurate. What is very interesting some 25 years after the movie debuted is that it has not aged one single bit--the characters remain delightful, the
emotions as real as ever, and the New York milieu as varied and fascinating as it still is today (and probably always has been.) A great, entertaining, and endearing film!
Moving tale of a middle-class Manhattan housewife's struggle for
independence after her husband leaves her for another woman.
The wonderful Paul Mazursky created this 1978 landmark slaute to women's liberation and the film wipes the floor with the messy urban horror of 1977's Looking for Mr. Goodbar: Goodbar's makers ultimately had no respect for their female protagonist but Mazursky scores in his depiction of female self-respect and love.
Jill Clayburg's miraculous performance as Erica was snubbed at the Academy Awards in favor of Jane Fonda's more 'tolerable' female in Coming Home but if you look closely you'll see there's no comparison and Clayburg hits all the right notes while displaying Erica's overwhelmingly complex feelings. Perhaps Erica's unique strength was too much for many male Academy members so they rewarded the typical moony-eyed housewife character instead. Regardless of that, Clayburg makes a brilliant lead and her lonely journey through New York-chic (art exhibits, bars, therapists, narcisstic artists) makes for great viewing. (The very brief encounters Erica has with a handsome blonde man at the coatcheck before and after she's been hit with the news from her husband are a nice touch!) There's a rare level of intimacy between the actors in all of the scenes but especially the girl group talks: the words sound surprisingly like they belong to the actors and Mazursky's ear for dialogue is sharp and refreshingly to-the-point.
Michael Murphy as the wayward husband, Alan Bates as the new love interest, and Cliff Gorman -whom I last saw as the bitchy, effeminate in The Boys in the Band!- as a male chauvinist provide exceptional support as the men in Erica's life. The only thing that marres the beauty of this film is its awful, piercingly shrill, '70's saxophone musical score.
Jill Clayburgh gives a brilliant performance as a married wife and mother
left for a younger woman. The movie touches all the different emotions
and her rebirth as an independent individual. The scene in which Erica's
husband tells her he has been cheating is great, and when Erica turns the
corner and breaks down is really something to see.
This movie was made when divorce was still a hot topic and women were just coming into the workforce and still tied into identifying themselves through marriage. But the film is still relevant today (we all deal with rejection of one sort or another). The rest of the cast is superb and there are great shots of New York circa 1978.
When upon its theatrical release I first saw 'An Unmarried Woman' I
thought it brilliantly captured the feminist outlook - not the radical
feminist viewpoint but the growing awareness of the vast majority of
ordinary women of new modalities for living. I just saw it again on DVD
and my first impression of the film holds up. But through my having
aged my perspectives have matured, and now I also find 'An Unmarried
Woman' to be perhaps the finest capturing of 1977's zeitgeist - but
only the zeitgeist of upper middle class New Yorkers (Mazursky better
captured the wider 70's zeitgeist in 'Harry and Tonto).
Here Mazursky shows that, whatever else he is accused of being or doing or not-doing (with which I don't always agree or disagree), is a thoughtful director taking a good, long, realistic look at this drama and at more than just its central character. I liked that some scenes ran on for a bit longer than some people find necessary or comfortable, because this is how life's scenes often play out beyond one's wanting them to end swiftly and tidily: indeed, the slight overrunning of some scenes contributes what today might be called "value-added" realism to 'An Unmarried Woman.' After all, Erica has, involuntarily, been thrust into a new life in which she's not at ease in every one of its developing, novel situations.
The saxophone score - probably considered hip in 1977 - is today often more than a trifle annoying; but then it could be said that the score is part of the film's capture of the 70's zeitgeist: like all decades the 70's had its annoyances (not the least of which was the dismal monotony of disco, and all those decor-saturating browns, olives (avocado it was called!), honey-golds, and tawny oranges).
The cinematography here is quite good, nicely tailored to the film's intimate subject, situations, and relationships. Throughout the acting is uniformly good; Jill Clayburgh's effort here is, and will remain I expect, a cinema original and classic. I especially enjoyed - not when I first saw the film but much more so now in 2006 - Cliff Gorman's portrayal of self-satisfied, on-the-make Charlie. Andrew Duncan in the minor role of Bob lends great verisimilitude with his pre-"hair systems" comb-over but especially with the touch of about-to-be-over-the-hill despair in Bob's attempt to bed Erica; Bob demonstrates that most men in that decade, beginning as they were to be flummoxed by emerging liberated women and feminism, still clung to the suddenly obsolescent notion that a divorcée would and should be eager to remarry in order to traditionally assure her security and peace of mind.
At my first viewing I agreed with what Tanya, Erica's therapist, said to Erica about guilt being a manufactured, unnecessary emotion. But a good many more years of living have taught me that guilt is not manufactured, and that without it a person is doomed to emptiness and isolation, and a society is doomed to decadence, and even to barbarism. Rather Tanya should have held that guilt is natural, and that it is one's mature management of it that enables one to distinguish, in oneself and in others, venality and narcissism from generosity of spirit.
'An Unmarried Woman' still stands on its own - more as a socio-cultural than as a cinematic landmark. It's that rare kind of film that's worth watching every five or ten years, if only to help us to recall where we've come from, and to help us to profit from, or to enjoy, a sense of where we might be going.
It's very interesting reading the other reviews to this film. The
reactions to it are very extreme. Some people love it. Some people hate
it and that was exactly the reaction people had to it back in 1978 when
it first came out.
The mid to late 70s was New York's era as the 'fashionable city' in the days of fashionable cities. NYC took the torch from Swinging Sixites London as the city every fashionable person wanted to go to, live in, know... It was the 'Disco' capital of the world. It was where the most interesting films were set. It where all the happening artists lived and Unmarried Woman caught the zeitgeist of that time. Even jogging was a new phenomenon back then and NY lead the way with it and 'everyone' wanted to know what people were up to there, even about the jogging. If you'd never been to NYC you were missing out. If you had been to NY and or knew NY, back in 1978, you bragged about it. While at the same time the city was officially broke and in many ways seemed to be crumbling into the sea.
Unmarried Woman was a product of all this fascination, both negative and positive, with the city at the time. Trivial details about life in NY had a sort of cachet. Therefore, on reflection, what may seem trite to viewers today, had a strange sort of value back then.
Some people sneer at Erica's seemingly privileged position in society. How dare she be so miserable, have you seen where she lives? Well, guess what, wealthy women also feel sad when they are rejected by their husbands for a younger model. And guess what, some people like to look at the lives of people who live in beautiful apartments with views of the river and whizz downtown in yellow cabs on bright New York mornings. In fact it's the contrast between the material privilege and the sadness and loss that makes this film work.
Some people are also alarmed by the strong, upfront musical score. Sorry about that. Music in the 70s was strong and upfront in our lives, not just background noise. The wailing saxophone was the pop instrument of the time and the excellent, very 70s soundtrack, is one of the aspects that make watching this film such a powerful, nostalgic and enjoyable ride.
Unmarried Woman does have its flaws. It is at times somewhat simplistic and personally, I'm not so sure that newly unmarried woman, Erica, was as much of a catch as we're made to believe. Every man she meets seems to fall at her feet.
This is very much a film of its time and a very interesting time and place it was. I wish they still made films like this today, about adults, for adults, with strong subtle performances, without both eyes on the cash register and without some dreary, over-exposed, under talented box office 'star' drudging her way through her lines. There was something very adult and sophisticated about American cinema in the 70s and Unmarrried Woman takes its place in the long list of films that were a part of that.
The film was beautifully shot, beautifully scored, excellently acted and I'm glad it's now available for us to see, as a reminder of a short but memorable time and place.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have loved this movie since I saw it in the theater in 1978. I was a
17 year old guy who felt this film had something to say to me too. Jill
Clayburgh is magnificent in this film. I have always been drawn to
films with strong female characters and I believe this is one of the
finest. Jill should have won the Oscar. Even Jane Fonda in a preOscar
interview said, when asked on her chances of winning, "No, I think Jill
Clayburgh will win, she gave the best performance." But all of the
acting is of a uniformly high caliber. Michael Murphy, as the husband,
gave a realistic portrayal of a man who struggles with his feelings of
a man who is trapped by his feelings for his new love, even though he
would never want to hurt is wife. Cliff Gorman and Alan Bates also
brings wonderful readings to their characters as well.
I have read several comments here that make it appear to me that people don't like the ending. Yes, it would have been nice if the painting had been delivered to her apartment, but I see her carrying the painting, and especially as she whirls with it at first, as Erika's dance of liberation. That she is by herself, and she is okay with herself. It's only my opinion, but that's how I see it. A wonderful film, that to me has not dated.
A thoughtful film about human emotions and modern relationships, it is filled with interesting ideas and it is very well acted. At the time of the film's initial release, Jill Clayburgh received a lot of attention for her performance, and indeed she delivers very well, but Michael Murphy cannot be forgotten - he is an actor who is able to convey his emotions very realistically. In 1976 and 1979 he was also brilliant in 'The Front' and 'Manhattan' respectively - with such talent it is a shame that he has not had a better career. The film is also is set to some quite appropriately moody music from Bill Conti, and although technically unimpressive in general, some shots are very well composed by Mazursky. On the down side, the supporting characters are only lightly developed, and it drags a bit towards the end, but generally this is a solidly made film, and if nothing else, it is interesting to see Clayburgh dancing about in her underwear!
An acting triumph for Jill Clayburgh, playing a N.Y.C. wife and mother whose husband tells her he's fallen in love with another woman. Brittle, biting, funny, and moving; a serious-comedy that benefits from a screenplay which is sometimes strangely over-the-top and yet nearly always on-track emotionally. In his determination to find The Truth about the American woman in the 1970s, writer-director Paul Mazursky gets a little kooky: Clayburgh's Erica throws up on the street after her husband confesses his affair; she later fends off the affections of both her doctor and a blind date (one of those guys who tries covering his bald scalp with overlong side hairs). She's also in therapy and her doctor turns out to be a lesbian (and we never see Erica in therapy again). The mother-daughter dynamics between Clayburgh and tough little nut Lisa Lucas are precise and believable; when Mom brings a man over for dinner, daughter feels defensive and gets mouthy. But the night ends playfully, with the ladies playing piano together and bonding over Paul McCartney! Alan Bates enters in the second-act as a burly, not-pushy artist who falls for Erica, yet she's not so sure. Why she's so reluctant to throw down her defenses for this man isn't made quite clear (playful, sexy Bates would be a godsend to any unattached woman). The film isn't necessarily logical, though it takes pride in being flaky and tart. There are big, passionate feelings in "An Unmarried Woman" and, instead of being some kind of emotional workout, it is surprisingly romantic (which ticked some feminists off, who wanted more than lightweight laughs). I enjoyed it, although it probably seems dated by today's standards. It certainly is peculiar, with Mazursky's penchant for outrageous dialogue punctuated by genuinely affecting emotions. *** from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
She was an unmarried woman, she used to be married with a man who left
their 16 years marriage for another young woman. The disruption of
their marriage began in a slow way, firstly no one awared there were
some problems had emerged even when i watched this film and I slightly
knew a bit of the gut beforehand but still thought they were quite good
couple with a lovely daughter, but who knew, suddenly another woman she
had never seen before brought her husband away, she was just a poor
divorced woman being left behind.
I like the scene when her husband abruptly told her the affair and decided to leave her. Like a thunderbolt, Jill Clayburgh's performance is heartbreaking and powerful! Life sometimes is so ridiculous, and mankind are always unsatisfying, we're inevitably getting tired of something old, trying to find something new, eventually find the old one is the perfect but what a shame! Not everyone has a second chance, and if you give someone one second chance, they know you can offer a third, fourth....and more. So don't be so cruel to yourself, The sky above is much bigger than your heart.
She met a painter and developed a romantic relationship with him, they loved each other but the story did not end with another good marriage. At last, the painter left and she didn't follow him because she was still an unmarried but happy woman. She got a big painting from the painter as a souvenir of him and her growth.
Very charming drama full of wisdom and humor, the whole story is not so comedy though. An excellent performance from Jill Clayburgh deserves her Oscar nomination that year. Alan Bates is drop-dead charming in this film. Also recommend the crooning piano score, especially ecstatic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While it's another thing to claim she was ripped off, it is very hard
to accept that Jill Clayburgh was outvoted for an Academy Award after
breaking new ground in Paul Mazursky's compelling drama on the divorces
of American women. 'An Unmarried Woman' will most likely be the film
for which Clayburgh is best remembered, since her Oscar-nominated role
opened the door to countless 'relationship' films and television series
that appeared later. 'An Unmarried Woman' helped bring divorce and the
female sexual experience to mainstream film and TV, still
under-the-covers topics in 1978. Nowadays, there is a 'Sex and the
City' for every 'Kramer vs. Kramer' and one 'Desperate Housewives' for
each and every 'Terms of Endearment,' owing greatly to the impact of
In the new millennium, divorce is taken so much for granted that emotional scars are frequently overlooked. 'An Unmarried Woman' nevertheless hits home with crude realities and hits hard. Paul Mazursky, acclaimed in 1976 for 'Next Stop, Greenwich Village,' draws a scene rich in despair where men turn their backs on devoted wives, children face enormous personal loss, and lives struggle to be rebuilt. And 'An Unmarried Woman' has that needed silver lining, putting humorous spins on a person's climb to independence and the overcoming of setbacks.
Jill Clayburgh plays Erica Benton, a Vassar graduate who has accepted three challenging roles in late 1970s New York: art gallery curator, wife of sporty investor Martin (Michael Murphy), and mother to teenaged girl Patti (Lisa Lucas). Erica serves as the hub in a large group of acquaintances who each carry different perspectives on love and sex. She meets weekly with a group of ladies that includes Jeannette (Linda Miller), a divorcée now playing the field, and Sue (Patricia Quinn), a married woman who has accepted her husband's infidelities. On the male side, uncouth sculptor Charlie (Cliff Gorman) lectures Erica on the 'need' to sleep around and English painter Saul (Alan Bates) becomes a part of Erica's life after meeting at an exhibition. The film is very much a diary of Erica's battles against fear, from the early trauma of separation to her small gaining of freedom.
Clayburgh gives a typically understated performance that fits her character like a shoe. Erica is a woman suffering from within and never does Clayburgh stoop to melodrama or overstate emotions. The entire cast, in fact, keeps feelings on a realistic level for most of the story. This is helped by the taut writing and direction of Paul Mazursky, whose screenplay goes to the essence of human thought and conversation. People in Mazursky's script genuinely resent, hope, fall in love, laugh, cry. 'An Unmarried Woman' is above and beyond the typical soap opera framework, examining how we confront betrayal and desire.
The performances are excellent all around. Michael Murphy succeeds in the role of a husband whose uncontrolled lust destroys his family. Lisa Lucas wonderfully portrays Patti Benton and wins even deeper sympathy than Erica as an intelligent young woman who loses her father. The supporting cast that includes Alan Bates, Cliff Gorman, Linda Miller, Patricia Quinn, and Kelly Bishop (as Elaine) makes up a complex landscape of opinion from which Erica must pick and choose.
'An Unmarried Woman' is a thoroughly New York film, using locations in Soho and the Manhattan financial district. Exterior shots are brimming with life under Mazursky's direction; they are filled with extras and offer a strong New York vibe. Cinematographer Arthur Ornitz ('Requiem for a Heavyweight,' 'Death Wish,' 'Next Stop, Greenwich Village') keeps things simple throughout, using bright photography and largely white interiors. Bill Conti's score is often intrusive with its booming saxophone, but does capture feelings that jazzed up the late 70s.
This film has its weaknesses, as the important breakup scene between Martin and Erica seems a bit overdone and Martin's sincerity is a lingering question. While shedding new light on the topic of divorce, it is from a largely middle class perspective; Erica is well-educated, financially sound, and has the credentials to start anew. The meetings between Erica and her psychiatrist Tanya (Penelope Russianoff, a real-life psychologist) are fascinating, but it is treatment not readily available to everyone. Technically speaking, the editing by Stuart Pappé looks a bit choppy in scene transitions; however, it does not upset the movie's flow. These problems are secondary, as the film offers powerful situations that every adult can relate to. Overall, it is a great trailblazer of women's film.
To my disappointment, 'An Unmarried Woman' has been released on a poor-quality DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Mazursky and Clayburgh pair up for a commentary track that is the only redeeming feature of this disc. Besides a jewel case that features Clayburgh in black underwear (?), the film is presented in widescreen with a choice of English mono or English stereo; Spanish and French mono are offered besides English and Spanish subtitles. While its overall print quality is good, the DVD's exteriors and white interiors reveal far too much grain for my liking. English mono is once again the better audio choice, as its stereo version gives too much weight to background and muffles dialogue. Mazursky and Clayburgh do make insightful comments on the production and give life to this otherwise blah retail. 20th Century Fox's theatrical trailer is provided as a second extra.
*** out of 4
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