"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person." Based on Anne Tyler's novel, the movie centers on Rebecca Davitch, a 53-year-old single ... See full summary »
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John Kent Harrison
"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person." Based on Anne Tyler's novel, the movie centers on Rebecca Davitch, a 53-year-old single mother and grandmother, and the cast of her colorful family around her. Written by
A warm and winning, yet not too syrupy, tale of self-discovery, this easygoing drama rests on the strong talents of its leading lady and a solid supporting cast. Danner plays a harried party planner who's begun to question her worth and contribution to the world. She seems to exist from event to event without actually inhabiting a life of her own. Unappreciated by her four annoying and annoyingly-nicknamed daughters (three from her deceased husband's previous marriage) and having inherited her husband's family business and even his 99 year-old uncle, she wonders if she took the right path in marrying him. She looks up her childhood sweetheart (Fonda) in an attempt to reexamine the choice she made and the two enter into a tentative dating relationship. Meanwhile, she regurgitates the minutiae of her life to her brother-in-law Riegert by telephone nearly every night. There isn't a great deal more story than that, but this is really a character piece more than a plot-driven film. Danner (who has more talent, charm, grace and beauty in her little finger than her more-famous daughter has in her entire body), does a stellar job of presenting this friendly, but insecure, sensitive, but realistic character. In her daffy outfits and with her nuanced acting, she easily captures the attention of the audience. Fonda gives a rather strange performance, but one that is appropriate to the character. His and Danner's quirks are subtly inserted into the film and they create an intriguing chemistry (interestingly, these actors shared the big screen nearly 30 years prior in the sci-fi action film "Futureworld"!) Palance has a field day as the dessert-loving uncle who seems to exist only to reach his 100th birthday. Delightful cameos are turned in by Foch as Danner's prim mother and Dunaway as the (what else?) over-the-top first wife of Danner's husband. She breezes in early to chew up half of the scenery and then, sadly, is never seen again. Danner's own niece plays her character attractively in flashbacks. The script stacks the deck so that Danner can't help but gain sympathy for having to deal with a truly repellent (for the most part) family of whining, self-indulgent brats, but, unfortunately, the traits portrayed by them are not exactly uncommon today. In the end, the film offers a touching glimpse into the life of someone who's been taken for granted yet finds a sense of purpose and discovers that she isn't quite the doormat she thinks she is. That said, the ending isn't as pat and clean as one might expect. It's the kind of film that would once warrant theatrical release (see "One is a Lonely Number"), but is now relegated to TV. The car chase and grenade crowd will be asleep by the first commercial break, but for the viewer who enjoys character studies, this is a treat.
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