Back When We Were Grownups (TV Movie 2004) Poster

(2004 TV Movie)

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Typically solid Hallmark presentation
Poseidon-324 November 2004
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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Excellent cast, faithful to material
Erin22 November 2004
I read -Back When We Were Grownups- some years ago and I'm a big fan of Ann Tyler's novels. This broadcast was remarkably faithful to the book, and the casting, particularly in the principal roles, was truly inspired. This is what good acting is all about. Especially great to see the wonderful Blythe Danner. Peter Riegert as always brought warmth and subtlety to the role of the brother-in-law. I loved Jack Palance as Poppy, although he's so youthful it was necessary to suspend belief in his portrayal of a 100 year old man! Great set design, too, and subtle retro styling for the memory scenes. I always look forward to the Hallmark Hall of Fame specials for quality drama, great commercials, and beautiful Wagner-like theme music.
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Pleasant tale of quirky family
vchimpanzee23 November 2004
Rebecca got married to Joe when he already had three children, who didn't accept her (and still don't). Then they had a daughter together, but Joe died after only a few years and Rebecca had the entire responsibility for four girls. Not to mention Joe's Uncle Poppy. As the movie begins, she is a veteran at running the family business, planning parties. Other family members have related jobs--one daughter is a florist, and another is a caterer. All the girls have silly nicknames but not all are explained, or at least I didn't catch the explanation. Minerva, for example, looked Chinese, like a 'Min Foo', to her father when she was born. And one of the rebellious daughters, at a young age, yelled, 'No! No!' This must have been Nono.

While talking to her mother, Rebecca is reminded of Will, a former boyfriend, and she later contacts him after she discovers he is head of the physics department at the college he graduated from.

I didn't really care for any of the daughters or stepdaughters, but I felt Danner carried the movie as the charming and patient Rebecca, and Palance did a great job as well as the goofy 99-year-old uncle who was fussy and had trouble remembering. Faye Dunaway was good as the girls' self-centered appearance-conscious mother Tina, who came back for Nono's wedding but usually stayed out of their lives. The flashbacks to Rebecca's earlier life were helpful.

Peter Fonda is turning into his father. I say that never having seen Henry in anything where he wasn't old. His character was not that appealing to me, but maybe that's what he was going for. He just seemed tired of life and frustrated, though he tried to be polite to Rebecca.

The meeting between Rebecca and Will's daughter Beatrice was ... interesting.

Regardless of how I felt about most of the characters, I found this to be a charming story.
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Jack Palance Was Fantastic!
whpratt130 November 2004
This film was very enjoyable and showed a family with many problems and lots and lots of good time Parties! Jack Palance,(Poppy Davitch),"War Games",'96, was the star of this film with his great acting and very comical role as the Senior Citizen of the family. Poppy was constantly eating at the kitchen table and waiting for a Big Birthday Event, his 100th ! Peter Fonda,(Will Allenby),"The Laramie Project",'02, play a middle aged/old sweetheart friend, who was a stuffed shirt that was not able to accept the family and their way of living and was not able to understand why the family was such a big Melting Pot of all races. If you loved Jack Palance over the years and want to see him at his very best, this is the film for YOU!
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