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Three middle-aged wealthy couples take vacations together in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Along the way we are treated to mid-life, marital, parental and other crises. Written by
Robert Nolty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Three middle-class jewish American couples spend their vacations together. As the seasons turn, we see them weekending in an Appalachian log cabin (spring), yachting in the Caribbean (summer), visiting their daughters' college in Connecticut (fall) and skiing upstate (winter). All six characters (seven eventually) are close and affectionate friends, but tensions exist within the group and each individual's quirks are exposed in the close confinement of communal living.
Alan Alda wrote, directed and starred in this gentle comedy of manners. The humour is mild and restrained, and the emphasis is on the ensemble. Character drives the action. We soon find ourselves engrossed in the complexities of these relationships and emotionally involved with the personalities. The film is plain and low-key, and infinitely the better for it.
Jack and Kate (Alda and Carol Burnett respectively) are the dominant couple in the group. Jack is a lawyer and feels compelled to analyse everyone's motivations in public. Kate organises the seasonal get-togethers. The two have a loving and secure marriage, but even they generate friction at times.
Danny and Claudia (Jack Weston and Rita Moreno) are the classic jewish dentist and his wife. Danny is a difficult, neurotic man and Claudia is an uncomplicated, cheerful Italian American. Many of the difficulties arise because of Danny's compulsive totting-up of bills.
Nick is married to Anne (Len Cariou and Sandy Dennis), Anne being a flaky lady with a vague hobby involving 'artistic' vegetable photography. During the course of the year spanned by the story, Nick leaves Anne and takes up with Ginny (Bess Armstrong), the beautiful young blonde whom everybody tries to dislike but can't.
The acting is universally excellent, with each character well-defined and fitting neatly into an overarching scheme. The group works extremely well as a unit, and Alda judiciously allows patches of overtalking, giving the gatherings a sense of effusive, natural fun, and getting away from the 'let's analyse six characters' approach which might have prevailed. The film is constructed with craftsmanlike precision and has a subtle but professional polish.
Alda's screenplay and direction are first class. A meaningful look passes between Jack and Nick as the latter cuddles the wife he is about to divorce, and talks of summer vacation plans. Claudia walks away from the group, crestfallen to realise that there is no romance in her life, and her husband's comforting hand fails to reach her. Kate makes the perceptive observation that men give their wives flowers when THEY are feeling affectionate, not when the wives need a boost.
"The Four Seasons" is an intelligent film about friendship which resists the temptation to have violent, dramatic things happen. It is sure enough of its subject to allow the friends to speak and behave naturally, and to let the (totally absorbing) entertainment arise out of the dynamics of the personal relationships. This film is a pleasure to watch.
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