An Unmarried Woman (1978) Poster

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New York In The Late 70s Time Capsule
Shilpot726 May 2010
It's very interesting reading the other reviews to this film. The reactions to it are very extreme. Some people love it. Some people hate it and that was exactly the reaction people had to it back in 1978 when it first came out.

The mid to late 70s was New York's era as the 'fashionable city' in the days of fashionable cities. NYC took the torch from Swinging Sixites London as the city every fashionable person wanted to go to, live in, know... It was the 'Disco' capital of the world. It was where the most interesting films were set. It where all the happening artists lived and Unmarried Woman caught the zeitgeist of that time. Even jogging was a new phenomenon back then and NY lead the way with it and 'everyone' wanted to know what people were up to there, even about the jogging. If you'd never been to NYC you were missing out. If you had been to NY and or knew NY, back in 1978, you bragged about it. While at the same time the city was officially broke and in many ways seemed to be crumbling into the sea.

Unmarried Woman was a product of all this fascination, both negative and positive, with the city at the time. Trivial details about life in NY had a sort of cachet. Therefore, on reflection, what may seem trite to viewers today, had a strange sort of value back then.

Some people sneer at Erica's seemingly privileged position in society. How dare she be so miserable, have you seen where she lives? Well, guess what, wealthy women also feel sad when they are rejected by their husbands for a younger model. And guess what, some people like to look at the lives of people who live in beautiful apartments with views of the river and whizz downtown in yellow cabs on bright New York mornings. In fact it's the contrast between the material privilege and the sadness and loss that makes this film work.

Some people are also alarmed by the strong, upfront musical score. Sorry about that. Music in the 70s was strong and upfront in our lives, not just background noise. The wailing saxophone was the pop instrument of the time and the excellent, very 70s soundtrack, is one of the aspects that make watching this film such a powerful, nostalgic and enjoyable ride.

Unmarried Woman does have its flaws. It is at times somewhat simplistic and personally, I'm not so sure that newly unmarried woman, Erica, was as much of a catch as we're made to believe. Every man she meets seems to fall at her feet.

This is very much a film of its time and a very interesting time and place it was. I wish they still made films like this today, about adults, for adults, with strong subtle performances, without both eyes on the cash register and without some dreary, over-exposed, under talented box office 'star' drudging her way through her lines. There was something very adult and sophisticated about American cinema in the 70s and Unmarrried Woman takes its place in the long list of films that were a part of that.

The film was beautifully shot, beautifully scored, excellently acted and I'm glad it's now available for us to see, as a reminder of a short but memorable time and place.
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The Film Hasn't Dated, But I Have
Piafredux16 February 2006
When upon its theatrical release I first saw 'An Unmarried Woman' I thought it brilliantly captured the feminist outlook - not the radical feminist viewpoint but the growing awareness of the vast majority of ordinary women of new modalities for living. I just saw it again on DVD and my first impression of the film holds up. But through my having aged my perspectives have matured, and now I also find 'An Unmarried Woman' to be perhaps the finest capturing of 1977's zeitgeist - but only the zeitgeist of upper middle class New Yorkers (Mazursky better captured the wider 70's zeitgeist in 'Harry and Tonto).

Here Mazursky shows that, whatever else he is accused of being or doing or not-doing (with which I don't always agree or disagree), is a thoughtful director taking a good, long, realistic look at this drama and at more than just its central character. I liked that some scenes ran on for a bit longer than some people find necessary or comfortable, because this is how life's scenes often play out beyond one's wanting them to end swiftly and tidily: indeed, the slight overrunning of some scenes contributes what today might be called "value-added" realism to 'An Unmarried Woman.' After all, Erica has, involuntarily, been thrust into a new life in which she's not at ease in every one of its developing, novel situations.

The saxophone score - probably considered hip in 1977 - is today often more than a trifle annoying; but then it could be said that the score is part of the film's capture of the 70's zeitgeist: like all decades the 70's had its annoyances (not the least of which was the dismal monotony of disco, and all those decor-saturating browns, olives (avocado it was called!), honey-golds, and tawny oranges).

The cinematography here is quite good, nicely tailored to the film's intimate subject, situations, and relationships. Throughout the acting is uniformly good; Jill Clayburgh's effort here is, and will remain I expect, a cinema original and classic. I especially enjoyed - not when I first saw the film but much more so now in 2006 - Cliff Gorman's portrayal of self-satisfied, on-the-make Charlie. Andrew Duncan in the minor role of Bob lends great verisimilitude with his pre-"hair systems" comb-over but especially with the touch of about-to-be-over-the-hill despair in Bob's attempt to bed Erica; Bob demonstrates that most men in that decade, beginning as they were to be flummoxed by emerging liberated women and feminism, still clung to the suddenly obsolescent notion that a divorcée would and should be eager to remarry in order to traditionally assure her security and peace of mind.

At my first viewing I agreed with what Tanya, Erica's therapist, said to Erica about guilt being a manufactured, unnecessary emotion. But a good many more years of living have taught me that guilt is not manufactured, and that without it a person is doomed to emptiness and isolation, and a society is doomed to decadence, and even to barbarism. Rather Tanya should have held that guilt is natural, and that it is one's mature management of it that enables one to distinguish, in oneself and in others, venality and narcissism from generosity of spirit.

'An Unmarried Woman' still stands on its own - more as a socio-cultural than as a cinematic landmark. It's that rare kind of film that's worth watching every five or ten years, if only to help us to recall where we've come from, and to help us to profit from, or to enjoy, a sense of where we might be going.
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A great, entertaining and endearing film
middleburg11 June 2004
An Unmarried Woman was one of the best films from the late 70s/early 80s. It so completely captures a time and a place. It is a personal, perceptive story of a woman's marriage which crumbles to her total surprise. It ends up being a sort of comic--Americanized version (or more specifically New York version) of

"Scenes from a Marriage". Throughout the film we are introduced to one terrific personality after another--each distinctively drawn. From her affluent circle of friends, to the quirky, genuinely intriguing artistic types of the downtown art scene (Soho before it became SO commercial), to the assorted people she

meets on her journey of coping and understanding such as her therapist

(portrayed by the great psychologist and author, Penelope Russianoff, who was a fixture on New York's Upper Westside for years), we are treated to a wealth of fascinating characters. The movie resonates with warmth and understanding.

Jill Clayburgh's Erika is a contemporary tragic/comic heroine. She's beautiful and classy and funny and her emotions--for anyone who has gone through

divorce or separation or simply difficult marital situations--are absolutely dead- on accurate. What is very interesting some 25 years after the movie debuted is that it has not aged one single bit--the characters remain delightful, the

emotions as real as ever, and the New York milieu as varied and fascinating as it still is today (and probably always has been.) A great, entertaining, and endearing film!
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terrific acting
azeffer24 January 2001
Jill Clayburgh gives a brilliant performance as a married wife and mother left for a younger woman. The movie touches all the different emotions felt and her rebirth as an independent individual. The scene in which Erica's husband tells her he has been cheating is great, and when Erica turns the corner and breaks down is really something to see.

This movie was made when divorce was still a hot topic and women were just coming into the workforce and still tied into identifying themselves through marriage. But the film is still relevant today (we all deal with rejection of one sort or another). The rest of the cast is superb and there are great shots of New York circa 1978.

Ten stars.
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Watershed moment in the history of 'women's films'
barbarella708 January 2003
Moving tale of a middle-class Manhattan housewife's struggle for independence after her husband leaves her for another woman.

The wonderful Paul Mazursky created this 1978 landmark slaute to women's liberation and the film wipes the floor with the messy urban horror of 1977's Looking for Mr. Goodbar: Goodbar's makers ultimately had no respect for their female protagonist but Mazursky scores in his depiction of female self-respect and love.

Jill Clayburg's miraculous performance as Erica was snubbed at the Academy Awards in favor of Jane Fonda's more 'tolerable' female in Coming Home but if you look closely you'll see there's no comparison and Clayburg hits all the right notes while displaying Erica's overwhelmingly complex feelings. Perhaps Erica's unique strength was too much for many male Academy members so they rewarded the typical moony-eyed housewife character instead. Regardless of that, Clayburg makes a brilliant lead and her lonely journey through New York-chic (art exhibits, bars, therapists, narcisstic artists) makes for great viewing. (The very brief encounters Erica has with a handsome blonde man at the coatcheck before and after she's been hit with the news from her husband are a nice touch!) There's a rare level of intimacy between the actors in all of the scenes but especially the girl group talks: the words sound surprisingly like they belong to the actors and Mazursky's ear for dialogue is sharp and refreshingly to-the-point.

Michael Murphy as the wayward husband, Alan Bates as the new love interest, and Cliff Gorman -whom I last saw as the bitchy, effeminate in The Boys in the Band!- as a male chauvinist provide exceptional support as the men in Erica's life. The only thing that marres the beauty of this film is its awful, piercingly shrill, '70's saxophone musical score.
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Jill was robbed
giffey-125 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have loved this movie since I saw it in the theater in 1978. I was a 17 year old guy who felt this film had something to say to me too. Jill Clayburgh is magnificent in this film. I have always been drawn to films with strong female characters and I believe this is one of the finest. Jill should have won the Oscar. Even Jane Fonda in a preOscar interview said, when asked on her chances of winning, "No, I think Jill Clayburgh will win, she gave the best performance." But all of the acting is of a uniformly high caliber. Michael Murphy, as the husband, gave a realistic portrayal of a man who struggles with his feelings of a man who is trapped by his feelings for his new love, even though he would never want to hurt is wife. Cliff Gorman and Alan Bates also brings wonderful readings to their characters as well.

I have read several comments here that make it appear to me that people don't like the ending. Yes, it would have been nice if the painting had been delivered to her apartment, but I see her carrying the painting, and especially as she whirls with it at first, as Erika's dance of liberation. That she is by herself, and she is okay with herself. It's only my opinion, but that's how I see it. A wonderful film, that to me has not dated.
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My brief review of the film
sol-1 June 2005
A thoughtful film about human emotions and modern relationships, it is filled with interesting ideas and it is very well acted. At the time of the film's initial release, Jill Clayburgh received a lot of attention for her performance, and indeed she delivers very well, but Michael Murphy cannot be forgotten - he is an actor who is able to convey his emotions very realistically. In 1976 and 1979 he was also brilliant in 'The Front' and 'Manhattan' respectively - with such talent it is a shame that he has not had a better career. The film is also is set to some quite appropriately moody music from Bill Conti, and although technically unimpressive in general, some shots are very well composed by Mazursky. On the down side, the supporting characters are only lightly developed, and it drags a bit towards the end, but generally this is a solidly made film, and if nothing else, it is interesting to see Clayburgh dancing about in her underwear!
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Clayburgh blazes a trail in women's cinema
paul_johnr16 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
While it's another thing to claim she was ripped off, it is very hard to accept that Jill Clayburgh was outvoted for an Academy Award after breaking new ground in Paul Mazursky's compelling drama on the divorces of American women. 'An Unmarried Woman' will most likely be the film for which Clayburgh is best remembered, since her Oscar-nominated role opened the door to countless 'relationship' films and television series that appeared later. 'An Unmarried Woman' helped bring divorce and the female sexual experience to mainstream film and TV, still under-the-covers topics in 1978. Nowadays, there is a 'Sex and the City' for every 'Kramer vs. Kramer' and one 'Desperate Housewives' for each and every 'Terms of Endearment,' owing greatly to the impact of this picture.

In the new millennium, divorce is taken so much for granted that emotional scars are frequently overlooked. 'An Unmarried Woman' nevertheless hits home with crude realities and hits hard. Paul Mazursky, acclaimed in 1976 for 'Next Stop, Greenwich Village,' draws a scene rich in despair where men turn their backs on devoted wives, children face enormous personal loss, and lives struggle to be rebuilt. And 'An Unmarried Woman' has that needed silver lining, putting humorous spins on a person's climb to independence and the overcoming of setbacks.

Jill Clayburgh plays Erica Benton, a Vassar graduate who has accepted three challenging roles in late 1970s New York: art gallery curator, wife of sporty investor Martin (Michael Murphy), and mother to teenaged girl Patti (Lisa Lucas). Erica serves as the hub in a large group of acquaintances who each carry different perspectives on love and sex. She meets weekly with a group of ladies that includes Jeannette (Linda Miller), a divorcée now playing the field, and Sue (Patricia Quinn), a married woman who has accepted her husband's infidelities. On the male side, uncouth sculptor Charlie (Cliff Gorman) lectures Erica on the 'need' to sleep around and English painter Saul (Alan Bates) becomes a part of Erica's life after meeting at an exhibition. The film is very much a diary of Erica's battles against fear, from the early trauma of separation to her small gaining of freedom.

Clayburgh gives a typically understated performance that fits her character like a shoe. Erica is a woman suffering from within and never does Clayburgh stoop to melodrama or overstate emotions. The entire cast, in fact, keeps feelings on a realistic level for most of the story. This is helped by the taut writing and direction of Paul Mazursky, whose screenplay goes to the essence of human thought and conversation. People in Mazursky's script genuinely resent, hope, fall in love, laugh, cry. 'An Unmarried Woman' is above and beyond the typical soap opera framework, examining how we confront betrayal and desire.

The performances are excellent all around. Michael Murphy succeeds in the role of a husband whose uncontrolled lust destroys his family. Lisa Lucas wonderfully portrays Patti Benton and wins even deeper sympathy than Erica as an intelligent young woman who loses her father. The supporting cast that includes Alan Bates, Cliff Gorman, Linda Miller, Patricia Quinn, and Kelly Bishop (as Elaine) makes up a complex landscape of opinion from which Erica must pick and choose.

'An Unmarried Woman' is a thoroughly New York film, using locations in Soho and the Manhattan financial district. Exterior shots are brimming with life under Mazursky's direction; they are filled with extras and offer a strong New York vibe. Cinematographer Arthur Ornitz ('Requiem for a Heavyweight,' 'Death Wish,' 'Next Stop, Greenwich Village') keeps things simple throughout, using bright photography and largely white interiors. Bill Conti's score is often intrusive with its booming saxophone, but does capture feelings that jazzed up the late 70s.

This film has its weaknesses, as the important breakup scene between Martin and Erica seems a bit overdone and Martin's sincerity is a lingering question. While shedding new light on the topic of divorce, it is from a largely middle class perspective; Erica is well-educated, financially sound, and has the credentials to start anew. The meetings between Erica and her psychiatrist Tanya (Penelope Russianoff, a real-life psychologist) are fascinating, but it is treatment not readily available to everyone. Technically speaking, the editing by Stuart Pappé looks a bit choppy in scene transitions; however, it does not upset the movie's flow. These problems are secondary, as the film offers powerful situations that every adult can relate to. Overall, it is a great trailblazer of women's film.

To my disappointment, 'An Unmarried Woman' has been released on a poor-quality DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Mazursky and Clayburgh pair up for a commentary track that is the only redeeming feature of this disc. Besides a jewel case that features Clayburgh in black underwear (?), the film is presented in widescreen with a choice of English mono or English stereo; Spanish and French mono are offered besides English and Spanish subtitles. While its overall print quality is good, the DVD's exteriors and white interiors reveal far too much grain for my liking. English mono is once again the better audio choice, as its stereo version gives too much weight to background and muffles dialogue. Mazursky and Clayburgh do make insightful comments on the production and give life to this otherwise blah retail. 20th Century Fox's theatrical trailer is provided as a second extra.

*** out of 4
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An Unmarried Woman - Men intend to have fun in uncertainty but women definitely need an answer.
lasttimeisaw2 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
She was an unmarried woman, she used to be married with a man who left their 16 years marriage for another young woman. The disruption of their marriage began in a slow way, firstly no one awared there were some problems had emerged even when i watched this film and I slightly knew a bit of the gut beforehand but still thought they were quite good couple with a lovely daughter, but who knew, suddenly another woman she had never seen before brought her husband away, she was just a poor divorced woman being left behind.

I like the scene when her husband abruptly told her the affair and decided to leave her. Like a thunderbolt, Jill Clayburgh's performance is heartbreaking and powerful! Life sometimes is so ridiculous, and mankind are always unsatisfying, we're inevitably getting tired of something old, trying to find something new, eventually find the old one is the perfect but what a shame! Not everyone has a second chance, and if you give someone one second chance, they know you can offer a third, fourth....and more. So don't be so cruel to yourself, The sky above is much bigger than your heart.

She met a painter and developed a romantic relationship with him, they loved each other but the story did not end with another good marriage. At last, the painter left and she didn't follow him because she was still an unmarried but happy woman. She got a big painting from the painter as a souvenir of him and her growth.

Very charming drama full of wisdom and humor, the whole story is not so comedy though. An excellent performance from Jill Clayburgh deserves her Oscar nomination that year. Alan Bates is drop-dead charming in this film. Also recommend the crooning piano score, especially ecstatic.
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Mazursky's penchant for the sublimely ridiculous gives the film a wafty comic undertone...
moonspinner5511 September 2005
An acting triumph for Jill Clayburgh, playing a N.Y.C. wife and mother whose husband tells her he's fallen in love with another woman. Brittle, biting, funny, and moving; a serious-comedy that benefits from a screenplay which is sometimes strangely over-the-top and yet nearly always on-track emotionally. In his determination to find The Truth about the American woman in the 1970s, writer-director Paul Mazursky gets a little kooky: Clayburgh's Erica throws up on the street after her husband confesses his affair; she later fends off the affections of both her doctor and a blind date (one of those guys who tries covering his bald scalp with overlong side hairs). She's also in therapy and her doctor turns out to be a lesbian (and we never see Erica in therapy again). The mother-daughter dynamics between Clayburgh and tough little nut Lisa Lucas are precise and believable; when Mom brings a man over for dinner, daughter feels defensive and gets mouthy. But the night ends playfully, with the ladies playing piano together and bonding over Paul McCartney! Alan Bates enters in the second-act as a burly, not-pushy artist who falls for Erica, yet she's not so sure. Why she's so reluctant to throw down her defenses for this man isn't made quite clear (playful, sexy Bates would be a godsend to any unattached woman). The film isn't necessarily logical, though it takes pride in being flaky and tart. There are big, passionate feelings in "An Unmarried Woman" and, instead of being some kind of emotional workout, it is surprisingly romantic (which ticked some feminists off, who wanted more than lightweight laughs). I enjoyed it, although it probably seems dated by today's standards. It certainly is peculiar, with Mazursky's penchant for outrageous dialogue punctuated by genuinely affecting emotions. *** from ****
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The Awful Life of a Post Divorcée Living in a Fabulous Apartment.
chconnol24 May 2005
Oh, boy.

It's sometimes seems too easy a shot to hit a movie like "An Unmarried Woman" almost thirty (30!!!) years after it's release and on the grounds that it depicts a charmed life that is hit with a crisis like the one depicted here. But that's my case. I don't have an issue with some of the dialog which others have stated seems so "70s". I lived through that era so maybe it doesn't seem or sound so archaic to me. "An Unmarried Woman" was a BIG movie back in 1978. It received almost universal praise and Clayburgh's performance catapulted her out of her supporting roles and in into the realm of 1st rate actresses like Fonda. A lot of the praise for her is deserved.

What gets me is the depiction of her crisis while living in a pretty awesome upper east side Manhattan apartment. I'm not saying that people in the upper middle class don't have problems and issues but their depiction in a movie that is supposed to have some universal value seems superficial and ignorant. What are we supposed to think? "Awwww, the poor dear...her husband's run off and left her?" Well, she still has the great apartment, the sensitive, intellectually aware daughter for support as well as a swell gaggle of female friends to hang and bitch with. Sorry, but the movie simply doesn't cut it as tragedy at all. This woman is still able to do a lot of things AND go to therapy! And I haven't even gotten to the BIG BEAR of an artist she ends up with and then turns down his proposal! Oye, does SHE have problems that most people would kill to have! How about a movie about an unmarried woman trying to make ends meet in a lower class neighborhood in Brooklyn? Too downbeat, right? Betcha that woman won't have time to hang with her friends and do therapy. OK, how about a working class woman from New Jersery? No? Not enough fabulousness in a split ranch or cape code home? That's why it's so tricky doing a drama about people "finding" themselves amidst a personal or emotional crisis. You cannot show one person as an example of all experiences. And Hollywood tends to go to ones like these where the people are way, way better off financially than most people in these situation. The reality is that it's much easier to overcome these kinds of emotional issues when you've got $$$ as "An Unmarried Woman" so acutely demonstrates. But what it fails to realize is how narrow their view is. We're supposed to see how great it is to find oneself but the feeling I got was "yeah, it's great to find yourself when your life after the separation really wasn't that bad." The narrow mindedness of this film is almost infuriating if it weren't for the fluid direction and the good acting by everyone.
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A Time Capsule of the late 70s
boiler7421 June 2007
Somehow I missed "An Unmarried Woman" when I was a senior in college, but I remember hearing about it. Finally, about five years ago, I was flipping through the channels, and I happened upon this gem. I realize some people might consider this film "dated," but other than period pieces, all movies are eventually "dated" in one aspect or another.

I thought Jill Clayburgh was gorgeous and showed herself to be quite a feisty "Erica Benton." Michael Murphy as her husband Martin was extremely annoying and self-centered, but that was his role and the whole reason wife Erica was sent into the world of unmarried women.

I enjoyed the music, the setting, and the general feeling of having lived through that time (1977-1978). Sadly, several key actors from the film are gone (Alan Bates, Cliff Gorman, Penelope Russianoff), but this movie will live on as it captured the post-Vietnam era quite well. It sounds odd now to say the movie was a breakthrough for women, but for its time, it was pretty controversial.

It's nice to see Jill Clayburgh active on Broadway and the silver screen once again. I'm looking forward to her role on the upcoming TV series "Dirty Sexy Money." I can't wait to see her in scenes with "Six Feet Under" star Peter Krause!
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Aging Not So Gracefully
fowlerjones14 February 2005
What was once considered contemporary and relevant has become dated and self-serving in the age where these kind of films have their own channel on cable.

To think this piece of 70s celluloid hankie-wankie was Oscar-nominated? Imagine the academy voter who voted for this movie as best picture over The Deer Hunter. It's hard but somewhere out there, somebody voted for it. Just the fact it got the best pic nomination is nauseating enough. One of the bleaker moments in academy history, at least for the 70s. I'm glad it didn't win any Oscars.

What is Jill Clayburgh's legacy? She kept a few roles from Brenda Vaccaro. For that, I offer polite applause.
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An Uninteresting Woman...
majikstl27 May 2004
Paul Mazursky's AN UNMARRIED WOMAN belongs to a minor genre of films from the late 1970s/early 80s mockingly referred to as survivor pictures. The said survival was of, well, everyday life -- dating, marriage, divorce, child custody battles, etc. -- as endured bravely by upper middle class urbanites. In essence, the movies finally recognized the day-to-day life that real people had been coping with since the beginning of civilized time -- and which television had been dealing with for decades on "As the World Turns," "Days of Our Lives" and "All My Children." Some of these attempts to find nobility in everyday survivors where okay (STARTING OVER), some tiresomely self important (KRAMER VS. KRAMER) and some just barely bearable, like AN UNMARRIED WOMAN.

WOMAN deals with Erica (Jill Clayburgh), a middle aged, middle class Manhattan housewife who suddenly discovers that her husband has fallen in love with a younger woman and wants a divorce. She responds with predictable anger and outrage, before settling down to the business of "surviving." Divorce is never easy, but as divorcees go, Erica has it awfully good. She is blessed with, in no particular order, a guilt-ridden ex-husband who churns out the checks; a supportive teenaged daughter, who apparently has little interest in her dad; an ad hoc support group made up of girlfriends who cheerfully share in male-bashing self-righteousness; and an indulgent female therapist adept at nodding her head in mechanical approval and dispensing dime-store encouragement. And when it comes time to get back into action, she has no trouble findings a couple of hunky guys, who, by the way, are artists, not boring old businessmen like her ex-hubby, Martin. In short, female bonding goes on all over the place and men are put in their place as convenient sex objects.

Indeed, divorce seems to be a blessing in disguise. Compared to the heroines of films like ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE or NORMA RAE, Erica seems to have it pretty darn good. And that is a major problem in the film: it is noticeably lacking drama. Had the film been played more for humor, then Erica's newfound awaking might have had a joyous kick. Instead, Mazursky labors to make serious, i.e., feminist statements about the travails of being a woman in contemporary America. But, boy did he pick the wrong woman to use as a poster child. Since Erica really doesn't have any discernible hardships in her life, the film falls back on the last refuge of feminist self-pity: self-esteem. AN UNMARRIED WOMAN is about Erica learning to feel good about herself. ZZZZZzzzzzzzz.....!

Maybe because I am a male, I found Erica's journey to self-awareness boring. Jill Clayburgh, who plays Erica, was the actress du jour of the era. She had the curious ability to seem sad even when she was happy and vulnerable even as she was being hard-bitten. Unfortunately, this is the way she came off whether the role required it or not. It is what the role of Erica required, but even so I have never found Clayburgh to be a particularly likable actress; she behaves like she is in the movies because she doesn't have a choice. She is not a giving actress. Erica seem perpetually annoyed that she even has to "survive" and Clayburgh acts as though she has something else she'd rather be doing.

Again, perhaps because I am a man, I found the relatively minor character of Erica's husband to be more compelling and more complex. Played by Michael Murphy like an extension of his role in Woody Allen's MANHATTAN, Martin is a cliche -- a middle-aged man walking away from a comfortable marriage in search of something to revitalize his life -- but as cliches go, it is a valid one. Murphy gives a glimpse of a man in emotional and philosophical turmoil; it is a performance that vividly reveals more in a few short scenes than Clayburgh does with all of Erica's tiresome whining. We see why he wanted out of his marriage to Erica, but not why he'd want back in.

Mazursky is not a great director or a particularly skillful writer, but he is even worse as an editor. He has no sense of pace and loves to let scenes ramble far beyond their point of impact. But in his best films, such as BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE, MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON and DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS he gently mocks self-absorbed, trendy twits. Here, instead of teasing the foibles of his New Yorker of choice, he embraces her. He wants us to know he understands feminine/feminist angst. In a strange way, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN is less about a woman or even women, than about a man trying to prove his liberal credentials by pandering to feminist stereotypes. As such, a film that strives to be realistic ends up being condescendingly phony.
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Feminist propaganda that goes nowhere
OlYankee15 January 2006
Once again, too bad zero ratings aren't allowed.

This movie is just another piece of feminist propaganda from the late 1970s that regurgitates the usual anti-male spiel and has nothing of any substance to offer. The "heroine" first deals with an unfaithful husband who confesses to having an ongoing affair, but in such a way that one wonders if the "other" of the affair was female or male (a favorite feminist theme of the 1970s and later (i.e., all men are latent homos)). Sheesh.

Finally, the fact that the "heroine", when facing a situation where she has to make some kind of a decision sort of wanders off the screen at the end, is most telling. She has her "individuality" and that's about it.

George Harrison's song "I Me Mine" should have been playing in the background at that point.

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Perhaps inspiring but unrealistic
bpinzka22 August 2006
I disliked An Unmarried Woman, starring Jill Clayburgh and Alan Bates. Clayburgh's character gets dumped by her philandering husband, of whom she suspected nothing of the sort. She keeps the gorgeous apartment and seems financially fit;something that seldom happens in real life. While wallowing in her grief and self-pity, on her first try she finds the perfect shrink and then her first date is a dashing, sensitive artist played by the dashing, sensitive Alan Bates. I saw this with another recently-divorced woman and we were rolling our eyes skyward throughout the movie, asking the good Lord for patience.

Let's see a movie about a woman without any real marketable skills who gets dumped, with several children to care for, who has to depend on public social services for help? BTW, there's some value in comparing this to the 2005 movie The Upside of Anger, in which another woman, this time played by Joan Allen, gets dumped and, in her case, is left with four teenage daughters. While she hasn't financial woes, the psychological trauma rings far more true than in the self-serving Unmarried Woman.

Why did I give it a 6? The outstanding cast and production teams. Consider it a gift.
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Maybe my most disliked film of all time
tedr01134 March 2007
I have seen this film 4 times (at least). I despised it the first time. Then I saw a trailer (which was wonderful) that made me see it a second time. Still disliked it. Good reviews made me watch it on video and DVD. And you know what? I still hated it.

First, let me say that none of this is Jill Clayburgh's fault. She is absolutely fantastic. She inhabited her character fully and did with it as much as she could. He Oscar nom was well deserved.

The problem is the screenplay. Here, Paul Mazursky (for whom I have admittedly no fondness for) is incredibly SMUG. It is the screenplay I would imagine a self-important, in therapy, male with his head stuck up his own ass (and admiring the view) would write. Watching it is like watching a so-called sensitive male egotistic go on about how he is oh-so-sensitive to women's wants when all he wants to do is screw the babe. You roll your eyes, nod, and look for the exit.

If this film, or Mazursky, was less highly regarded, I'd probably wouldn't be on my high horse here. But he and it is, and I think that is a shame.
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A rare thing: an American film for and about adults
ChristopherWB3 February 2006
Briefly, this is one of the few American films I have seen that is remotely a realistic depiction of how basically intelligent, decent, middle-class adults behave in a long-term relationship (in this case a marriage of sixteen years) when they break up. I almost felt as though I were watching a reality show from that era. This is how people behave, without much heroism or great insight into themselves or others; often with a "cluelessness" that defines our humanity more tellingly than our pride would like to hear. (An aside to the previous commenter: I have seen this sort of thing, close-up and personal, and this is pretty much how people act: it reminded me very much of how a couple with whom I was very close broke up, and the aftermath, in the decade before this film was made. And the man had been having an affair for several years before it happened, not just one: the woman had not a clue.) My only complaint is that the story ends far too soon and far too happily. But it is an American film (sigh!), so one most not expect too much: we just "cannot bear very much reality"!
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A well-kept secret...
niel21 May 2005
Having seen this film when it was released, remember thinking how good it was, Then seeing it last night and thinking it was sensational. Glancing at the vote demographics for this flick helped me see why I liked it so much more now. It's because I've been around more.

With sensational performances by Ms Clayburgh and Mr Bates one is drawn into the feelings and yearnings of someone who is only just awaking from a dream to find out how daunting life can be after a dissolved marriage.

Some people would dismiss this as just a women's picture, and it is that, but I found a lot to relate to in her situation. Yes, there is a lot of drama here, but there is a lighter side too. If this film were a book, it would be a great read!
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bhakta_allison28 October 2008
I did not feel pity for a divorcée who still lived as she did when the wealthy husband was still living at home. Like many people stated, let's see a movie where a woman actually had to struggle to pay rent and feed her kid(s) when the man walked out. I can see why the husband wanted a little more out of life while his wife just flitted about town enjoying herself while he worked hard for his family. His wanting a younger woman who was fun was normal while she was too tired for sex most of the time.

The therapist only encouraged depravity with the suggestion her client meet and experience as many men as possible. Casual sex did not seem to work for the divorcée so she hooked up with the artist far too quickly and was ready to give up her life for a man she really did not know. Even though the husband wanted to come back, the soon-to-be ex-wife did not think of her life and how she would become one of her pitiful friends. Instead, she was too infatuated with the sexual attention which was detrimental to her daughter.

The ending was bunk. I found it rude for the English artist to blithely tell his girlfriend/whatever to take a cab or something to get that huge painting home. She looked ridiculous walking the streets with it and the guy was gone...gone...gone! IMNSO, she should have taken back her husband. So what if he had an affair. How she behaved afterward was no better with bedding her co-worker and then the artist she knew for maybe an hour. All she was going to get as a single mom was a life of degradation.

Feminism was to show women to be strong but to not lose our self-respect by giving ourselves to any man who was interested.
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It Sums Up The 70's Perfectly
sddavis6331 July 2008
What can you say about the 1970's? It was a bleak, dark, pointlessly down decade. Made toward the end of the 70's (in 1978) "An Unmarried Woman" pretty much captures that feeling perfectly. It was bleak, dark and pointless. It begins with a marriage between Erica and Martin (Jill Clayburgh and Michael Murphy) that seems OK on the outside, but you know from the start that there are problems. It spends most of its time watching Erica try to rebuild her life after Martin confesses that he's fallen in love with a younger woman and leaves her, then it ends on a rather pointless note as her new beau (played by Alan Bates) gives her a huge painting that she struggles to carry home. It's needlessly long (and seems longer thanks to a slow script) and - aside from Clayburgh's performance (which was quite good) - does remind me of the '70's (and I'm not just talking about how absolutely and hopelessly dated the movie seems.) Like December 31, 1979 - when you were just glad the decade was over and you could move on to the 80's, even though you had no idea what the 80's would bring - you're just glad this movie comes to an end and you can move on to something else, no matter what it might be. 2/10
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Phony Feminism
evanston_dad18 October 2007
Jill Clayburgh plays an affluent New Yorker whose life crumbles when her husband reveals that's he's having an affair and wants a divorce. What's a woman to do when everything she's built her life around is suddenly whisked away?

This feminist anthem from Paul Mazursky is well meaning but also condescending. It's a movie that was clearly made by a man, and it's a man's guess at what a feminist awakening would look and feel like, rather than the real thing. Therefore, it records Clayburgh's emotional development with the neatness of a house wife checking off items on a grocery list, and even throws in a lesbian daughter just to prove that there are women out there who don't need men at all, as if that's even remotely what feminism is about.

Clayburgh is game, but she's better than the movie.

Grade: B
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RunPepe10 October 2003
Definitely the best "woman's" film I've ever seen, and definitely Philip Kaufman's best film, period. The screenplay is excellent, the dialogue sounding very natural, which enhances the characters. The acting is incredible, as no one seems like they are acting, just reacting to each other and their circumstances the way anyone else would in life. Martin (Michael Murphy) crying, instead of being emotionless or hostile, when he tells his wife, Erica (Jill Clayburgh), he has fallen in love with another woman could almost be considered a stroke of genius. It is touches like these that make An Unmarried Woman one of the most realistic films out there, really digging into the psychology of the human mind without losing emotion.
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You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
sol121811 September 2005
***SPOILERS*** Slice of life, in the swinging pre-Aids Eepdemic 1970's, movie about a middle-aged married woman Erica Benton, Jill Clayburgh,who's husband Martin, Michael Murphy, leaves her for another and much younger woman. Things couldn't have been better for Erica living on the upper East Side of Manhattan with Michael a successful Wall Street stock broker and her teenage daughter Pattie, Lisa Lucas, who at age 15 is still a virgin but knows everything there is to know about sex.

Noticing Michael acting strange and funny Erica thinks that it has to do with the results of a physical examination he recently took but is shocked to find out from him, on a crowded Manhattan street, that he's no longer in love with her and is involved with another woman. Meeting this teacher Marsha Brenner at Bloomingbergs, while waiting on line to buy a new shirt, Michael fell madly in love with her and as a result is leaving his wife of 16 years. This leads Erica into a deep and dark depression that causes her to stop seeing anybody but her fellow friends, all woman divorcées, for support and solace.

Having trouble socializing with men brings Erica's depression into even deeper depths as she goes to see psychiatrist Tanya Berkel, Penelope Russianoff, who's also divorced, it seems like every married women in the movie has broken up with their husband, and tries to help her get her life back together telling Erica to go out to the bar and single scene and meet someone new.

On the first night Erica goes to a singles bar she meet Chalie, Cliff Gorman, a 1970's type super stud who thinks he's God's gift to women. Charlie, an artist himself, has known Erica from the Rollin Art Gallay where she works at and has been dying to get into her pants, or panties, for some time and now that she's available he sees his big chance. Spending the night with Charlie Erica knows that there's really nothing between them, but a one night stand, and leaves somewhat hurt and disappointed.

It later happens that, almost by accident, Erica meets abstract expressionist artist Saul Kaplan, Alan Bates, who's also divorced and realizes that he's the one man she want's to spend the rest of her life with. At an art exhibition a few days later with Saul Erica is confronted by a drunk and obnoxious Charlie who insults Erica by bragging about his one night affair with her. Charlie is nasty as well as both sarcastic and condescending to Saul to the point where he gets his face drenched with a glass of wine by Erica and belted and knocked to the floor by Saul. Charlie seemed to have been so impressed on his night-out with Erica that he couldn't stand to see her with another man.

As things start to go well for Erica they grow sour for Michael as his new love Marsha leaves him, or throws him out of her house, less then a month after he married her. Michael almost begging Erica to take him back is shocked that she has a boyfriend who's far more sweet kind and loving, as well as honest, then he ever was with her and finally realizes what a prize he threw away in trying to relive his youth. Saul trying to get Erica to spend the summer with him, and his two children, at his country home in Vermont is left on his own when Erica chooses to stay at her job in New York. Painting an abstract work of art Saul gives it to Erica for a going away present but the damn thing is something like eight by eight feet square!

You would have thought that the kind and understanding Saul would have at least called for a taxi or even a two ton Ryder truck to haul this "piece of art" back to her home all the way up-town from Saul's loft in Shoho to her place on East 68th street in the upper East Side, some 4 to 5 miles away! but Nooooo! We see the movie "An Unmarried Woman" end with poor Erica lugging this monstrosity through the streets of Manhattan as, you would expect from New Yorkers, nobody on the heavily traveled and crowded thoroughfares trying to help her.
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Jill Clayburgh gives a remarkable performance...
Karen-34-26 March 1999
Jill Clayburgh, long overlooked for her sterling performances, gives a wonderful performance as Erica Benton, a woman whose husband suddenly leaves her after almost twenty years of marriage. Married after just graduating from Vassar (a great line about the school is not to be missed!), Erica's whole adult life has been defined as a wife. Left to fend for herself with her teenage daughter in Manhattan, Erica must come to terms with a brave new world of vastly different mores than she is accustomed to.

As Erica seeks to re-define herself as a single woman, she has some embarrassing, albeit humorous, encounters in discos and taxi cabs with men who are quite frank about their needs and desires. Confused, she turns to a therapist who helps her cope and explore the person she truly is but has never had the opportunity to express. When she is able to comes to term with this issue, Erica finds happiness with someone who is her polar opposite but who loves her for the person she is.

Throughout the film, the loving relationship between Erica and her daughter, who is also intelligent and free-thinking, is explored. Although the two spar early on in the film (Erica vents her rage over men inappropriately towards the daughter's boyfriend), one of the final scenes where the two sit and play at the piano is one of the most beautiful mother-daughter scenes in modern film.
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