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This is one that worked much better on stage. The film is overlong and suffers from boring and repetitive sections. It begins well with James Caan impersonating Simon, grieving death of first wife and rushing into a marriage before he has recovered. He and Marsha Mason (who essentially plays herself here as she was in real life Simon's second wife) flirt and charm each other into marriage. Then suddenly Caan's character becomes depressed, guilt-ridden, borish, abusive and nasty. Ms. Mason is the epitome of tact, patience, concern and loving attention. One wonders how she can be so nice so long. Finally it snaps. The two best dramatic scenes are: a. the confrontation over the kitchen table at the return from the aborted honeymoon; and b. Miss Mason's superbly written and superbly acted monologue about self-worth and self-validation. It is all Marsha Mason here- again she is the emotional center of the film and the only one we care about. Her fine performance was deservedly Oscar-nominated. Valerie Harper gives a marvellously acidic supporting performance that equally deserved, but was not granted, a nom. See this for the Mason performance - she is, as always, top drawer quality.
CHAPTER TWO is a long and rambling film version of one of Neil Simon's best plays. Like BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS and BILOXI BLUES, this story is based on a part of Neil Simon's own life. James Caan plays George Schneider, a fictionalized Simon, a writer who has just returned from a trip around the world after the death of his wife. Sadly, George made the mistake of visiting all of the places he traveled with his late wife and it has apparently not aided his grieving process. At the urging of his brother, Leo (well-played by Joseph Bologna), George agrees to go on a blind date with an attractive divorcée named Jennie McLaine (Marsha Mason). Their first date is actually over the phone but they do eventually come face to face and move into a whirlwind romance which leads to a quick engagement and marriage...perhaps too quick because shortly into his new marriage, George realizes he really hasn't finished grieving over his first wife and begins to push Jennie away. Simon's first wife passed away and he eventually met and married Marsha Mason, so essentially, Mason is playing herself here and not surprisingly does it pretty effectively. However, in attempt to expand the play for the screen, it has become labored and way too long...the scenes of George and Jennie on their honeymoon go on way too long and bring the film to a dead halt. Another problem is James Cann's wooden performance as George. Caan never seems to grasp the rhythm of Simon's writing and makes George a little too melancholy. Bologna is solid, as always, as is an anorexic looking Valerie Harper, who appears as Jennie's best friend, Faye. If you're a Marsha Mason fan, it's worth checking out, others beware...
Shortly after the death of his beloved wife, a witty but man-of-moods
falls in love with a temperamental and equally witty actress, being
encouraged by his full-blooded brother and her romance-hungry best friend
who have problems of their own.
This film version of Simon's autobiographical play no doubt rewards his addicts with several bright one-liners and also some permissive, gloomier-than-usual domestic drama, (all sparked by detailed performances), but possibly disappoints others with its thin and slightly uneasy plot, occasional bursts of sentimentality and the unconvincing motivations of its central character.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Marry in haste, repent at leisure." Common expression, and perhaps one
Neil Simon was thinking of when he wrote this autobiographical
George Schneider (James Caan) is a widowed writer who is becoming reclusive. His brother, Leo (Joseph Bologna), wants him to get back into the swim of life, so he gives him the phone number of Jennie MacLaine (Marsha Mason), a bubbly, divorced actress who is the best friend of his mistress, Faye Medwick (Valerie Harper). Improbably, George and Jennie hit it off, and enter into a whirlwind courtship, which leads very quickly to marriage. However, after they have married, the memory of his first wife causes George to withdraw from Jennie. Can their marriage survive? Do we want it to?
It's an interesting script, in that you're swept along with a relationship that develops so fast it's out of control. And just when you think the happy ending is coming, a major problem develops. Simon certain knew the material, since he took it from his own life, but I think the ending is not as conclusive as he would like you to think it is. Along the way, though, it's an awful lot of fun.
Mason carries this movie, and thankfully, she is more than equal to the task, giving us a fully developed portrait of a charming woman who knows herself, knows what she wants from a relationship, and isn't afraid to tell her husband when he isn't giving her what she needs. As for Caan, he gives his usual wooden performance, which works moderately well with his character, but still leaves you wondering why he was cast in the part. As supporting players, Bologna and Harper more than hold their own, and help fill in the void left by Caan.
In spite of all its problems, this is a buoyant film, which is a joy to watch. Love may not be any easier the second time around, but Simon and Mason do manage to convince us that it's worth the ride.
In short, a classic example of an effort where the dialogue runs the film,
not special effects, sex, or some other 'popular' innovation. The
is bright, witty, and hilarious. Reminds me of the Walter Matthau-Glenda
The main characters' initial phone exchanges are phenomenal and hilarious. Later, the two supporting characters (played by Joe Bologna and Valerie Harper) have a meaningful exchange after being interrupted during a daytime tryst. Great dialogue. Well worth the two hour running time!! Enjoy.
Autobiographical comedy/drama by Neil Simon. In it a recent widower George
Schneider (James Caan) meets and falls in love with a recent divorcee Jennie
MacLaine (Marsha Mason). He marries her quickly, but realizes he hasn't
gotten completely over his first wife. Is her love for him enough to see
This was based on the real troubles Simon had when he married Mason in the early 1970s. He got over them (not completely though--they divorced in 1981) and wrote "Chapter Two" for the stage. I never saw it on the stage but I remember seeing this movie up the theatre back in 1980. I loved it (with reservations) back then and I still love it (with reservations) now.
The dialogue is virtual non-stop one-liners--real people don't talk like that but it is fun and entertaining to listen to. The dramatic sequences work well especially with Mason giving her all to what must have been a very difficult role for her to play. She's just tremendous (and drop-dead gorgeous) and was understandably nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for this role (she lost to Sally Field for "Norma Rae"). The film looks beautiful, moves fairly quickly and there's nice strong support from Joseph Bologna and (especially) Valerie Harper...but there's one big problem. James Caan. He's a wonderful DRAMATIC actor...NOT comedic. He seems very uncomfortable playing a mild-mannered grieving man, and the poor guy has no comedic timing and doesn't know how to tell a joke--most of his lines fall flat.
With a better leading man I might have given it a 10. As it is this is a strong 9. Worth catching...especially for Mason.
Sappy adaptation of the Simon autobiographical play with Caan horribly miscast in the Simon character (played by Judd Hirsch on the stage). He lacks the timing and precision for comedy. Mason is splendid in an Oscar nominated role as Caan's new love interest who tries to give Caan a sense of hope and deep love. Bologna and Harper add flavor to their key supporting roles.
Let's get this out of the way first. Marsha Mason is the type of
actress that puts a great deal of herself into every part she plays.
What Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow were to the writing skills of Woody
Allen, Mason was to Neil Simon. An actress who possessed an instinct
for the writers mind and interpreted his material better than anyone.
In CHAPTER TWO, Mason is at her best when delivering clever Neil Simon
one liners. And although she gives it her all, she cannot on her own be
expected to put across some of the stickiest dialogue ever written by
Neil Simon. Particularly the self righteous overly emotional speech at
the end. Not even Meryl Streep could pull that one off !! Simon had
written a similar speech for Mason in THE GOODBYE GIRL. About how the
character likes herself now and how far she had come in her life and
how grown up and wonderful she feels. Mason should have put her foot
down with this monologue in CHAPTER TWO. There is no way short of a
miracle that any actor can pull gooey dialogue off like that without
setting nervousness up in the viewer. This is not to say that Neil
Simon has failed with this piece. Some of his words hit a nice
autobiographic mark and I like the confessional speech that George
(James Caan) gives about all the reasons why he resents marriage the
second time around. It's too bad Caan never becomes the part. He's so
wooden and uncomfortable in this. Not as the character, but as an actor
who can't find his way through the part. Caan looks to Mason knowing
she's carrying the weight of the picture and he's hoping her
performance will carry him too. The chemistry between them doesn't jell
the way it did in Cinderella LIBERTY. Probably due to some of the icky
dialogue displayed here. Fortunately there's top notch supporting work
by Valerie Harper and Joseph Bologna. Both are at the top of their game
here. Simon seems to have written the best scenes for them. While I can
forgive Robert Moore's soapy direction, I cannot for my life excuse the
awful music score. Indicative of most music in movies between the
decade of 1976 through 1986. Inappropriate and sappy in the worst
Why would anyone want to be in love after watching this picture and hearing it's sticky music? The feeling of this movie is like one of those old butter commercials with the two lovers running in slow motion towards each other. I must admit to feeling lonely before watching CHAPTER TWO. After it was over I was extremely happy that I was not in a relationship and quite content to be single for a while. Thanks Neil !!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Never got a chance to see this on stage, but it has the kind of
dialogue that makes a play great with competent actors. Chapter Two
just doesn't work as a movie. James Caen and Marsha Mason certainly
have the chops, and for the first 30 minutes, the show is an
interesting romantic story.
That all ends however, when Caen's charterer has a meltdown and it becomes almost painful to watch. I felt horrible for Marsha Mason, and the emotional baggage, that was heaped upon her character.Even with the eventual resolution, I had no hopes that this ill advised marriage would survive. Joe Bologna, and Valerie Harper, provide a bit of comic relief, but not enough to make me feel much better.
Movies are supposed to be a pleasant escape for the most part. If you ever have had relationship problems or not, I doubt you will enjoy this movie much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Neil Simon takes a semi-autobiographical chapter from his own life and
turns it into an incredibly kind tale of finding love after death and
divorce. James Caan is a not so merry widow and Marsha Mason is a not
so gay divorcée. They are both ironically leaving JFK around the same
time, he coming in from a get-away to Europe and she returning from
Reno. Not running into each other, they also miss seeing each other at
a posh Manhattan restaurant, he on a date with an exotically dressed
model and she with an incredibly tall man who wants to take her
dancing. Thanks to his playboy brother (Joseph Bologna) and her best
friend (Valarie Harper), they end up in several awkward phone
conversations and she seems to think she's got a stalker on her hands.
But they finally agree to a five minute meeting, and boy, when they do,
The conflict in the relationship comes from each of their personality quirks, aspects of themselves that seem to bother them more than the other. He can't seem to forget his late wife, and she is gun-shy about another relationship. But the sudden rush into marriage, which brings out each of their insecurities while on a honeymoon where he once took his late wife, threatens to separate them due to these personality disorders, and it will take time apart for them to sort through these issues.
The stars are both extremely attractive here, and after playing some not-so-nice roles on screen, Caan finally becomes a likable guy, one you truly root for. Mason, Mrs. Neil Simon in real life, seems to be playing a variation of herself, and is as usual, adorable and quirky. Bologna and Harper, both married to other partners (who seem to be conveniently out of town all the time), add into the mix, and are absolutely wonderful. Fresh from her long-running TV role of "Rhoda", Harper is a delight, providing some snappy lines like a modern day Eve Arden. Bologna is likable too in spite of his character's obvious insincerity, and that adds a lot of humor into the mix.
A pretty musical score by Marvin Hamlish, a love theme sung by Marilyn McCoo and excellent location photography also add to the charm of Simon's simple but witty tale of two people in transition who find each other when they're really not looking for anybody to replace whom they've just lost. There's a very funny finale where Mason rushes through the streets of Manhattan trying to avoid running into restaurant patrons, a handyman spraying the sidewalk and a man on a unicycle. Only in New York from the mind of Neil Simon, who also throws in a hysterical sequence at the 42nd Street Library where a young girl groans at Mason and Caan for making too much noise. Only in 1979 New York, kids. Only in 1979 New York.
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