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Only When I Laugh
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Reviews & Ratings for
Only When I Laugh More at IMDbPro »

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Marsha Mason's finest film performance in an absorbing comedy-drama.

7/10
Author: Arne Andersen (aandersen@landmarkcollege.org) from Putney, VT
20 June 2000

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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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Mason's Finest Hour

7/10
Author: Isaac5855 from United States
30 November 2005

Much has been written over the years regarding the 'one-note" performances of Marsha Mason. Four of these "one-note" performances earned Mason Oscar nominations and IMO this is the best of those four. ONLY WHEN I LAUGH is Neil Simon's big screen re-working of his own play THE GINGERBREAD LADY. Marsha Mason plays Georgia Hines, an actress recently released from rehab, trying to get her career going again, trying to re-establish a relationship with her daughter (Kristy McNichol) and trying to stay sober and not really doing a great job with any of them. Mason hits all the right notes here and makes Georgia a flawed and realistic human being. Some of Mason's best moments involve no dialogue at all...there is a wonderful scene about 2/3 of the way through the film where an on-the-edge Georgia is walking the streets of Manhattan around dusk and it seem like every other storefront she passes is a bar. She then stops at an interior pay phone to call her doctor from rehab; however, he is not present and Georgia doesn't want to talk to the doctor who does answer the phone. This scene is extremely well-played by Mason and I think it's the scene that probably nailed the Oscar nomination for her. Kristy McNichol charms, as always, as Polly, Georgia's self-sufficient daughter who still yearns to be Mommie's little girl sometimes. James Coco and Joan Hackett also deliver Oscar nominated performances as Georgia's best friends, Jimmy, an unemployed actor and Toby, a vain, society beauty trying to cope with the fact that her best years have passed her by. Hackett is particularly impressive as the fading beauty whose fragile ego doesn't keep her from kicking Georgia in the ass when she needs it. Though Simon definitely has stronger screenplays under his belt, ONLY WHEN I LAUGH is worth seeing if for no other reason, the strong performances by the four leads, three of which earned Oscar nominations.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Cheap shots

6/10
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
7 July 2007

Comedy-drama from writer Neil Simon, an expansion of his unsuccessful play "The Gingerbread Lady", has Marsha Mason playing an alcoholic Broadway star just checking out of rehab and back into reality when her estranged teenage daughter tells her she wants the two to be roommates. Fairly lively, bitchy film full of wisecracks and tears becomes flabby in the second and third acts, mostly due to poor editing which might have eliminated the dross (and a few side-plots that lead nowhere). Mason performs one too many dramatic monologues on the telephone, and there's a seven-minute waste of film involving two college guys trying to pick up Mason and daughter Kristy McNichol at a health food restaurant. The film has been designed to show off Mason's range (her vulnerability, her wiseass humor, her pathos, etc.). She's striking walking around New York City in her cape, less so when she's sniffling or giving an actors' seminar on the phone. Mason matches up perfectly with McNichol, but 17-year-old Kristy is shunted off to the side (and I disliked the padded sequence where she gets drunk like mamma). There are some fine moments here, but the picture gets off to a really bad start with an excruciating scene between James Coco and a Hispanic delivery boy. Simon takes one cheap shot after another, and yet the film isn't really about alcoholism at all, it's about masochistic behavior. **1/2 from ****

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Only When I Laugh-It Hurts So Much to Be So Good ***1/2

9/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
14 February 2010

Another marvelous Marsha Mason performance as a recently returning actress from rehabilitation.

Neil Simon's script is as crisp and vivid as ever. Too bad that both Miss Mason and Diane Keaton's performance in "Reds" were overlooked by the Academy when the Oscar went to the sentimental Katharine Hepburn for "On Golden Pond." Academy members were apparently voting for Henry Fonda for best actor in record numbers and just went down the line for Hepburn as well. What a shame.

The film deals with the frustrations and hopes of 3 people and that doesn't even include a worthy performance by Kristy McNichol as the daughter.

As the gay actor, desperately trying to succeed, the late James Coco was excellent. In the supporting category, he is well matched by the late Joan Hackett, tremendous as Mason's best friend, whose marriage is apparently falling apart.Those glittering grayish clothes that she wore expressed her emotions so well. No one could also wear those poncho outfits that Mason wore. They depicted a troubled, but independent lady.

This is an excellent case study of 3 friends in turmoil and how they try to cope while supporting each other emotionally. Trouble is that Georgia (Marsha Mason) allows herself to fall back and drink again. She says that as a youngster she wanted to be another Susan Hayward. She sure is crying tomorrow and smashing up her life.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Great Film

7/10
Author: joygu1 from United States
8 September 2005

This is a great Film, not only is it a fast moving film, but it also shows how alcohol can ruin someone's life and what effects it will have not only on themselves but also on those around her. It has a great mother daughter relationship that is being tested from the beginning of the movie. This movie also shows the support of her good friends and how much they are will to put up with! This movie was ahead of it time for when it came out in the early 80's and touched on a lot of subjects that were not discussed even for 1981!! Marsha Mason plays a woman with a drinking problem, has a gay best friend and a friend who is obsessed with her looks, she is divorced and she is not the parent who raised her daughter because of her alcohol problems. Kristy McNichol plays the daughter who really only wants her mother to notice her and pay attention to her.

Yes, it maybe somewhat similar to The Goodbye Girl but there are some major differences. It also has great story and moves along fast, is funny, and at one point you really do not like Marsha Mason character, which is what a good movie does!!! But this is a movie you need to see for yourself and make your mind up!!

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Simon, Mason, Coco, Hackett, and McNichol - How Can You Go Wrong!

8/10
Author: jamie-81 from San Lorenzo, Ca.
18 July 2000

Marsha Mason's performance of a lifetime - snubbed by the academy. This was by far her best performance since The Goodbye Girl. This film was not your ordinary Niel Simon flick. A tour-de-force with all the elements: Tears, Laughter, and each character going through their own seperate turmoil. James Coco is great as the gay wannabe actor/best friend. Joan Hackett is brilliant as Toby Landau, the aging Park Avenue beauty, who dreads growing old. Ms. Hackett won a Golden Globe for her performance in this film. Oscar nominations for Mason, Hackett, and Coco. Too bad none of them won.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Good Marsha, Middling Simon

7/10
Author: jjnxn-1 from United States
10 February 2014

Lesser Neil Simon dramedy with a fine performance from Marsha Mason. The problem is that her character is so selfish it's difficult to sympathize with her and since she's the focus of the piece that's vital. The result is that you feel detached from the proceedings. Purportedly Marsha's character Georgia was based on Judy Garland but as written she has none of Judy's enchantress qualities that made her often maddening behavior tolerable to her intimates for so many years. Georgia is thorny without the magnetism or charm that would compensate for her petty, difficult and sometimes cruel behavior.

Joan Hackett gives her customarily excellent performance for which she was Oscar nominated but the part isn't award worthy. Still since this was her final feature film role before her death it nice that she was so honored for her many years of quality work. James Coco was similarly acknowledged and his part is more fleshed out but he has likewise had better roles. Kristy McNichol, at the height of her fame when this was made, surely took the project on feeling it would be a good showcase for her but except for one confrontation scene her character doesn't make much impact and it seems the script doesn't know what it wants her to be.

Not a bad film but for being a Neil Simon project the script is missing an incisiveness that is the hallmark of his better work.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Palpable Transition from Stage to Screen

Author: ctheslayer from Houston, TX
23 October 2003

Only When I Laugh is the film version of Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady. Unfortunately, the title isn't the only difference. While the original play deals with the seriousness of substance abuse and co-dependancy, its film counterpart plays it more for laughs - think The Goodbye Girl II, complete with the lead character's change in occupation from cabaret singer to stage actress and the same neurotic frenzy Marsha Mason brought to the role of Paula McFadden. It's the story of Georgia, a recovering alcoholic fresh from rehab, who's teenage daughter Polly decides to come live with her. While the two are working out the whole mother-daughter bit, Georgia finds herself too caught up in the miserable lives of her gay, unsuccessful actor friend Jimmy and her vain yet insecure rich, female best friend Tobey. There are some fantastic performances in this film, especially Joan Hackett as Tobey. Neil Simon, known for memorable monologues, wrote some his finest for the play, and they transfer quite well to film.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

One of Marsha's finest moments!

9/10
Author: BaileySEA from Garner, NC
23 March 2007

Neil Simon adapted his play "The Gingerbread Lady" into this wonderful bittersweet comedy. Kristy McNichol is wonderful as teenage daughter Polly. Marsha Mason deftly portrays boozy Broadway actress Georgia Hines. Veterans James Coco and Joan Hackett lend excellent support as a gay failed actor and fading Park Avenue beauty. Mason is wonderful as Georgia, as written she is a witty, genuine human being. Only When I Laugh is one of Neil Simon's more poignant screen adaptations. Through the good and the bad the viewer is never left wanting. This is one of my all-time favorite Neil Simon vehicles. For a play adaptation it never feels stagy.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Great Mom / Daughter Movie

10/10
Author: boyfreechik89 from United States
16 November 2005

Kristie McNichol is a wonderful actress, also in this movie,I grew up watching her on TV and in movies,I wish she would come out of retirement from acting,also, because now my daughter likes her "old" movies. This movie is wonderful for moms and teens, even if your life isn't like the caricatures. LOOOOVE IIIIIIT !!! Also Marsha Mason and the rest of the cast are just as wonderful. Kristie and Marshas caricatures are believable as mother and daughter, and very funny together. A very good movie I recommend it. But still can't find it to buy on DVD. Hopefully it will be released soon. Hollywood don't make movies like this anymore.

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