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.