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A boozy Broadway actress comes out of a 12-week cure to face the problems of her best friends as well as her needy daughter. She tries to balance the terrors of returning to work with the demands of all around her with humor and insight, while staying off the booze. Written by
Kristy McNichol is a daughter who never had a childhood. Marsha Mason is a mother who never grew up. And when they get together, they're the most mismatched roomates since "The Goodbye Girl". See more »
The movie was retitled "It hurts only when I laugh" in the UK so the title would not be confused with British television's Only When I Laugh (1979) which was broadcast there between 1979 and 1982. See more »
In one of the opening scenes when Marsha Mason's character is leaving the "Betty Ford Clinic" of the time, there is an employee, Sandy, who passes her by the stairs says good-bye but addresses her as Mrs. Simon instead Mrs. Hines the character's real name. See more »
[as kids beat on her car]
God damn them! Why do you live in this neighborhood? Why don't you move?
Because, it only costs me $300 a month. It's a sublet from Mary Todd Lincoln.
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Marsha Mason's finest film performance in an absorbing comedy-drama.
Those disappointed in this film because it is not the typical laugh a minute Neil Simon comedy are similar to those who don't like Woody Allen's INTERIORS (his best film) because he chose to create a drama, rather than what the public expected, another amiable comedy. They "expect" but they don't "experience." Mr. Simon also wrote another essentially dramatic play, CHAPTER TWO, which was similarly criticized. ONLY WHEN I LAUGH is adapted from his serious play, THE GINGERBREAD LADY, which starred Maureen Stapleton on stage. Marsha Mason earned her fourth Oscar nom for her work here and should have won the Oscar for my money. It is not only her best performance on film, carefully balancing a line between drama and comedy, but it was heads above any of the other four nominees that year. Some years there is no justice where the Academy is concerned. Precariously trying to balance a stalled acting career with the nurturing of needy friends and a daughter who requires a full-time mother, Ms. Mason's Georgia is also an alcoholic, desperately trying to escape reality. This is a complex role and a complex performance, full of detail and played on many levels. I have never seen the mood swings of alcoholism better played than here in Ms. Mason's work - the manic euphoria and the bitter despair. It is a triumph and a career cap. Equally fine are Mr. Simon's incisive character writing and the fine justly Oscar-nominated supporting performances of James Coco and sadly doomed Joan Hackett (who won a Golden Globe Award for her work here). Kristy McNichol is superb as well and rightly should have been Oscar nominated in support. Once again Ms. Mason shows how adept she is at playing mothers - the relationship she establishes with Ms. McNichol is wonderful to behold. Oddly enough, in this film it is the mother who is more the child and the daughter who is parentified. All in all, an absorbing and satisfying film about people you come to care for - one of Mr. Simon's best and Ms. Mason's pinnacle.
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