Friday, June 17, 2016


I will dream a gentle dream
a soft dream.
I am at peace in this dream.
I am safe...

Dream Lover is a not-uninteresting Freudian psychological thriller from the director of Klute, derailed by a too-clinical fascination with the sterile, simultaneously uncinematic and exposition-reliant, world of dream therapy.
In the mid-‘80s, erstwhile child star and ‘70s teen idol Kristy McNichol made a tantalizing bid for adult credibility when cast against type in Alan J. Pakula’s visually persuasive psychosexual thriller Dream Lover. At age twenty-three, the two-time Emmy Award-winning actress (Family) with the easygoing smile and tomboy image was cast in her first truly adult role as Kathy Gardner, an emotionally and sexually repressed music student plagued by recurring nightmares.
Kristy McNichol as Kathy Gardner
Paul Shenar as Benjamin Gardner
Ben Masters as Dr. Michael Hansen
Justin Deas as Kevin McCann

Kathy is a talented and gifted jazz flutist (you’ll just have to take the movie’s word for that) living in a state of infantilized, vaguely incestuous arrested-development under the dictatorial thumb of her overbearing father (Paul Shenar), a prominent D.C. attorney.
After winning a scholarship to a prestigious New York music academy, Kathy, in an uncharacteristic show of independence and in strict defiance of her father's wishes, sublets an apartment in Greenwich Village, and, in short order, becomes romantically involved with her curly-permed jazz improv instructor (Justin Deas). Unfortunately, before Kathy even has a chance to adjust to her newfound freedom, Freudian guilt and paternal retribution comes swiftly and brutally in the form of an "I warned you it wasn't safe away from Daddy" apartment break-in and assault, resulting in Kathy killing her assailant with his own knife.
Now, haunted by recurring nightmares in which she is forced to relive the attack, Kathy submits to an unorthodox, experimental sleep therapy. A treatment which, while proving to be successful in quelling her nightmares, may have the unforeseen side-effect of inducing, in her waking moments, the compulsion to act out and upon emotions heretofore confined solely (and safely) to her dream world.
As a fan of psychological thrillers, I recall at the time hoping that Dream Loverwith its themes of violence, sex, dreams, and repression (redolent of Marnie, Spellbound, and Vertigo)would be Pakula picking up the Hitchcock mantle after serial Hitchcock homagist Brian De Palma at last appeared ready to set it aside following the flop critical reception to his Rear Window-inspired Body Double (1984). If so, I was beyond excited at the prospect of what a director of Pakula's skill and sensitivity with actors could bring to the genre.
Thus, I turned a blind eye to anything negative portended by Dream Lover being released in the dump month of January (a traditionally low-attendance time), and remained blissfully ignorant of the fact that I was one of the few (the very few, as it turns out) enthusiastically anticipating the opening of this, Alan J. Pakula’s first film in four years…since 1982's Sophie’s Choice.
My imagination was tweaked by Dream Lover’s striking, pulpy poster art (my work commute took me past MGM’s Culver City studio, so for over a month I got to gawk at the sight of an enormous and threatening billboard featuring America’s teen sweetheart brandishing a switchblade). I was sent thoroughly over-the-top the first time I saw the theatrical trailer—all fast cuts, Psycho-strings, and ominous voice-over: “Imagine the terror of living a nightmare every time you sleep. Every... time… you sleep….” And I was unaccountably taken with the intriguing notion of seeing squeaky-clean Kristy McNichol in a role that promised to be a dramatic departure.

But what excited me most was the return of Alan J. Pakula (one of my ab fab favorite ‘70s directors) to the suspense thriller genre. To me, Klute (1971): a character drama disguised as a detective story, and The Parallax View (1974): a truly terrifying political paranoia suspenser, are two of the most stylish, distinctive, and chillingly effective thrillers of the decade. Pakula knew how to tell a story and go for the effect, but never at the expense of character. Indeed, he seemed to have the magic touch when it came to actors, often extracting unexpectedly fresh and authentic performances out of long-established stars. In The Parallax View Paula Prentiss, known for her light-comedy roles, gives a nakedly intense dramatic performance, while, conversely, Pakula’s comedy Starting Over (1979) single-handedly reinvented Candice Bergen’s career by unearthing the self-effacing comedienne beneath the actress' much-touted ice-princess veneer.
It’s this latter directorial alchemy I anticipated Pakula working on Kristy McNichol, a talented actress I’d always liked (even in the wretched-but-oddly enjoyable The Pirate Movie), but who, when not busy being the only good thing in a string of mediocre films, appeared headed on a career collision-course that threatened to turn her into Marie Osmond’s answer to Erin Moran.
Kathy, Scat Singing With a Jazz Combo
Remarkably, this is NOT the reason someone tries to kill her a few moments later.
(McNichol also played a flutist in 1984's Just The Way You Are)

However, when I say Alan J. Pakula is one of my favorite ‘70s directors, I say it with emphasis on the “70s” part, for I tend to be a tad less fond of the late director’s post-1979 output (Pakula died in 1998). Starting with the soporific financial thriller Rollover (1981), Pakula's work during this period vacillated between ambitious (Sophie's Choice), banal (See You in the Morning - 1989), conventional (The Pelican Brief -1993), and, in the case of Dream Lover, fascinating but flawed.
Kathy's dreams are affected by the repressed, conflicted feelings
she has about her love-hate relationship with her controlling father

As contemporary psychological thrillers go, Dream Lover is very much up my alley. Yet, due to reasons easily attributable to its script (a first effort by one-time Pakula assistant and co-producer Jon Boorstin), and less verifiably ascribed to Pakula’s directorial choices; Dream Lover proves itself to be one of those high-concept, high-style thrillers that starts out promisingly, only to later develop serious problems sustaining suspense and maintaining a consistent tone. 
To Kathy's growing roster of father-related hang-ups, add male trust issues and sexual anxiety.
"Someday your father's gonna have to find out you're a woman."
"Not today."
Before its script gets hijacked by the self-serious contributions of a phalanx of sleep-research technical advisers (presented with the kind of grave earnestness guaranteed to make it sound absolutely crackpot), Dream Lover at least has the benefit of a marvelous setup. From the outset the central conflict is established as one both emotionally subjective (Kathy’s unresolved feelings about her father) and psychologically reactive (resultant of the discrepancy between Kathy’s dream reality – aka her desires - and her actual existence). In being made privy to the content of Kathy’s dreams, we’re made aware of how her rather vague daily persona as a dutiful daughter contrasts significantly with her vivid and active dream life.

In her nocturnal life, Kathy variably casts herself as a child; her own late mother (dressed, significantly, in red); and as an imprisoned figure capable of escape only through means of literal flight. Meanwhile, her father, for whom Kathy in real-life serves as a combination surrogate wife figure and eternal child, appears alternately as an idealized figure of warmth and acceptance, or a threatening, faceless specter. 
In her peaceful dreams, Kathy places herself within the pastoral scene depicted
in a painting that hangs (significantly, again) over her father's bed.

Since Dream Lover is presented from the exclusive perspective of Kathy’s reality—the perspective of a repressed, bordering-on-regressed grown woman with serious daddy issues; the film makes an interesting case of positing Kathy’s attack (though psychologically scarred, she comes to no physical harm due to unleashed pent-up rage) as being a physical manifestation of guilt (she defied her father) and sexual panic (the attack occurs moments after what may have been her first sexual encounter).
"I stabbed him...he dropped his knife, so I picked it up and I stabbed him!
And...I never felt so good as when I stuck that knife in him!"

Dream Lover’s Freudian overlays are metered out with such style; its intensifying cycle of recurrence and repetition so measured and deliberately paced…it’s a little too bad that the gripping psychological thriller we’ve been primed for never actually shows up. The introduction of the sleep therapy angle precisely when things should acceleratetakes what had heretofore been a fairly gripping, fun/trash psychological melodrama, and tries to turn it into a serious exploration of the scientific advancements made in the area dream research. Zzzzzz. 
Movies themselves are dreams. If a director wins over an audience’s confidence, he/she can make us believe and accept almost anything, no explanations necessary. Thrillers grind to a pedantic halt the minute they find it necessary to try to ground the primarily emotional pleasures of the genre in sober factualism (especially when, in order to accommodate a patently preposterous climax, the film chooses to jettison all laws of physics and logic). Hitchcock had the good sense to leave all the psychological mumbo jumbo for the end of Psycho, and even then it still came across like the most superfluous scene in the movie.
Top: The red-walled apartment Kathy sublets is festooned with vivid animal prints, patterned drapes, and nude artwork hanging on the wall. It's like someone's libido has exploded all over the room. Below: Once moved in, uptight Kathy substitutes virginal whites for the blazing reds and bold patterns, removes the artwork, and covers the animal-print furniture with sheets. In this screencap we have the mysterious stranger (Joseph Culp) in search of the whereabouts of the unknown "Maggie."

Throughout the film, Kathy's surroundings consistently reflect her emotional conflicts, reinforcing the theme of Kathy's dream reality having an increasing influence on her real life.

From a literal standpoint, the phrase “Dreams are what le cinema is for” is no idle claim. Dreams have been depicted in motion pictures since their Inception (a little dream-related film-geek joke there…heh, heh) dating as far back as the early 1900s.
If asked to cite directors whose visual sense best captures what my own dreams look like, I’d have to say Ken Russell and Roman Polanski (making musical room for Busby Berkeley and Vincente Minnelli); but such baroque theatricality isn’t always necessary to make the fantasy world of dreams feel authentic to me.
Dream Lover presents dreams in a relatively straightforward, decidedly Freudian manner. All corridors, portals, vivid reds, and symbolism, one could likely reference any of the film’s images in a dream interpretation manual and arrive at precisely the intention Pakula intends. Dream Lover was lensed by longtime Ingmar Bergman cinematographer Sven Nykvist (Fanny and Alexander), who gives Kathy’s dreams an austere luster of atmospheric dread.
Unfortunately, Dream Lover came out just around the time of MTV over-saturation. Freudian symbolism had become such a clich├ęd, overused mainstay of music videos at this point that Dream Lover’s imagery (as beautiful and fitting to the plot as it is) was met with a lot of been-there, done that.
Taking Flight

I know a great many people don’t care for Kristy McNichol in this film (if the words “great many” can be used in reference to a film as obscure as Dream Lover), but I find her to be absolutely riveting. Given what I consider to be the low to marginal quality of most of her films (Only When I Laugh and White Dog being the exceptions) it’s perhaps not saying much to credit this as my favorite of her screen performances, but it really is…she gives an authentic performance and absolutely makes the film for me.
It must be quite the challenge for actors to portray individuals who are emotionally shut-down, but McNichol gets under the skin of her character, infusing Kathy’s low-flame jitteriness with a great deal of poignance. McNichol has several really remarkable scenes, one of my favorites being when she is afraid to go to sleep and is asked by the empathetic sleep therapist to relate a sleep ritual from her childhood. Just absolutely marvelous work.
All of the performances in Dream Lover are uniformly fine, some suffering at the hand of their utilitarian service to the machinations of plot more than others. But I particularly like Ben Masters as the sleep researcher. He shares an easy rapport with McNichol and his genuine, seemingly nice-guy vibe plays well to the elements of the story centering on Kathy's suppressed distrust of (and impaired judgment regarding) men.

Gayle Hunnicutt & John McMartin appear in brief roles as family friends 

Dream Lover embodies two of my favorite things in off-beat films: 1) So-called "serious" directors tacking genre material, 2) Actors cast against type.
Alan J. Pakula can't help but bring a lot of technical skill and intelligence to this thriller (in spite of a screenplay that too often has intelligent characters regularly engaging in dumb behavior in order to keep the plot moving), but Dream Lover has the feel of a melodrama too proud to revel in its own enjoyably schlocky premise, instead it keeps trying to convince us of the soberness of its subject matter. Too bad, because for at least 60 of its 104 minutes, Pakula looks like he's willing to go for broke and serve up a tasty, low-calorie thrill-ride. It only falls apart when he tries to shoehorn in the substance.
As for Kristy McNichol, her participation in the film was a major draw for me back in 1986, it's nice to report that her subtle and affecting performance looks even better to me 30-years later. Not so much the '80s fashions and Kenny G-type sax musical interludes.
The '80s were not fashion forgiving


 The theatrical trailer that got my pulse racing back in 1986

Copyright © Ken Anderson


  1. Wow. I had utterly and completely forgotten about this movie's existence on Earth! I haven't ever seen it, though I feel like I probably saw bits and pieces during those years when cable movie channels were first in vogue and you turned on the TV and watched whatever was on out of the 1, 2 or 3 ones (or 4 if you were rich! LOL) that you subscribed to (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, The Movie Channel!)

    I would never in a million years have guessed that the woman on the poster was Kristy McNichol! She looks so different to me.

    When I saw the screenshot of the sleazy decor of that apartment, I felt a Hitchcock connection because in "Vertigo" he included a lot of red and green together. Interesting that she kept the nude lamp, but just went from green lighting to white.

    Poor Kristy in that hat... Your caption cracked me up. Thanks for profiling this! I love (re)discovering old, forgotten movies. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for this one.

    1. Hi Poseidon
      Yes, I think if anyone remembers this film at all, it's from those days of limited-option cable TV. Movies were repeated and replayed ad nauseum, but it was so thrilling not to have commercials, you often watched whatever was on ...over and over again (That's how I got to see "Car Wash" some 12 times).
      I'd pretty much forgotten about the film myself (I certainly hadn't seen it in decades) until it popped up as a made-to-order DVD; about the only hope for obscure movies these days outside of YouTube.

      I'd never thought of the "Vertigo" use of green and red in that apartment in the film, but now that you mention it, I wonder if it was indeed a Hitchcock connection. Certainly the colors used are not arbitrary. I have yet to check one of those online dream dictionaries to find out what red and green mean.

      And the 80s vibe is pretty thick in this film (the music, especially). Fashion-wise, it's kept somewhat in check by having few females in the cast, but once the dresses get that awful boxy Espirit look. Not my favorite even back then, but it looks positively perverse now (young women made to look like Dorothy Zbornak). Thanks for reading and commenting, Poseidon!

  2. Dear Ken: Hi! I never saw this one, but like Poseidon3, boy! do I remember it from cable TV listings in the late 1980s.

    This must have been quite a departure for McNichol after her "Little Darlings" days (I never saw that one either, but I recall it was the movie everyone in my ninth grade class was talking about!). And who are the other lead actors listed above? I'm not familiar with any of them! Pakula obviously was not able to command an all-star cast for this one.

    Just to add one random pop culture reference: thanks for the photo of Gayle Hunnicutt. My husband and I are working our way through the entire seasons of the old sitcom "Get Smart," and Hunnicutt made a memorable appearance as the evil counterpart of Hymie the robot. She was stunning in that episode and looks pretty much the same in the photo above.

    1. Hi David
      On the heels of "Sophie's Choice" I never knew if "Dream Lover" was Pakula's conscious attempt to step away from the BIG Hollywood film and return to the more personal style to which he always seemed best-suited, or was it a sign of having fell on difficult times.
      The Kristy McNichol casting was one of those things that could have turned her career around had the film worked, but as you noted, was it purposeful or circumstantial that he cast the rest of the film entirely with unknowns?
      I think it's one of Hollywood's odder sicknesses that successful directors keep feeling they shave to keep topping themselves, following one elephantine film with another. At times "Dream Lover" feels intentionally small (like a character piece), at others I feel like you stated ...that Pakula couldn't command an all-star cast on this one. As they say, audiences stayed away in droves.

      I am a BIG fan of "Get Smart", too. My partner gifted me with the complete DVD series, but on the proviso I wouldn't force him to watch them! That Gayle Hunnicutt e[pisode is one of my favorites. Just last month i saw "The Legend of Hell House" for the first time and she was great in that as well. She has a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it role in "Dream Lover", but she looks wonderful. Thanks for commenting, David!

    2. Speaking of the other (male) stars, it was quite a shock to see Justin Deas - far more famous, if at all, for his award-winning work on "As the World Turns," "Santa Barbara" and "Guiding Light" - with all that HAIR!! Wow...

    3. I don't know Deas from any of the soaps you cited, but upon Googling him when i begun this piece, I too noted the difference. It's like he used up all his hair ration cards during the 80s!

    4. I LITERALLY clapped my hand over my mouth to hold back a shriek (so as not to startle the sleeping cat next to me) when I saw Justin Deas! ONLY my favorite soap opera actor ever! I will watch *anything* with him in it, even if big ole fluffy perms are involved! Back when SoapNet still existed--and I still mourn its passing--I was getting up at 6 AM just to watch him in his mid-70's role as Bucky Carter on Ryan's Hope.

      *fanning self, trying to calm down and breathe normally* I will totally check out Dream Lover whenever I can, even though I never was a fan of Kristy McNichol. As a young 'un my gaydar was, shall we say, less than well-developed (at eight, I was in love with Cesar Romero as the Joker and Joel Grey in Cabaret. Impeccable taste in gay men in makeup, at least--no wonder I love RPDR so much!), but in any case, there always seemed something so inauthentic about her. I'm sure there was some internalized homophobia on my part as well, but now I can see it was straight-up cognitive dissonance at her playing straight girls. Given her subsequent struggles with bipolar illness--which my husband has as well--and having to be closeted for so long, my heart goes out to her, so I know whenever I'm able to see this, I'm going to view her a million times more sympathetically than I ever could have as a kid.

      (Yes, even if she gets to kiss Justin Deas. ;)

    5. Hi Lila
      Wow! Who knew there were so many people familiar with the oeuvre of one Justin Deas? I'm quite surprised to know he was such a staple of TV soaps.
      Your fangirl enthusiasm is very refreshing, so you'll be happy to know you'll be rewarded with a couple of very brief nude butt shots of Deas should you ever get around to seeing "Dream Lover."
      Excellent observation you made about that "something" that always struck you about McNichol. I never had it with McNichol myself (but I always think I gravitated to feminine extremes in movie actresses: the hyper-femininity of Ann-Margret/ the slightly butch womanliness of Glenda Jackson), but I had those feeling completely with Ellen Degeneres when she had her sitcom and especially in that terrible movie Mr. Wrong. Same inauthentic vibe I had with Rosie Donnell long before either came out.
      McNichol used to take a dance class I was in back in the 80s, and I had a serious crush on her, but like my partner says...I might just as well have had a crush on a boy. She was (is) such a cutie to me, and such an appealing actress. I hated her vocalizing, though, and she and brother Jimmy made Donnie & Marie look edgy.
      Should you ever get around to seeing this, please do let me know what you think. With your focus of attraction the curly haired Deas, you might bring new insights to the film. Thanks for such an entertaining comment! As I've said, I love hearing about people who surrender themselves to the crushes they develop on screen personalities.

  3. Ken, let me start by stating that I, too, belong to the Justin Deas fan club, having like him way back from his Santa Barbara soap opera days. I think he even won a Daytime Emmy for that show. There was a quirkiness to him that made him stand out from the typical square-jawed hunks on the show.
    I am also an admirer of Alan J. Pakula's work, and thank you for calling out Paula Prentiss' work in The Parallax View. She was absolutely robbed when she didn't receive an Oscar nom for best supporting actress.
    Apart from Starting Over, most of the films I associate with Pakula are dramas rich in intelligence with a somewhat clinical professionalism. His camera always seems to be precise, clear eyed, and somewhat dispassionate. This style really works well for him in The Parallax View and All The President's Men. For me, while Sophie's Choice is an intelligent adaptation of the book, somehow Pakula never reached the majestic suffering the story deserved (Streep's vaunted performance notwithstanding.)
    Maybe his self containment limited his ability to revel in the kind of erotic undertones that could have made Dream Lover a classic thriller. Think what Adrian Lyne could have done with this material!
    I remember the first time I saw Kristy McNichol on TV. She was one of the children on a minister on a show called Apple's Way with Ronny Cox. She appeared starting on the second (and last) season, replacing another actress who played the daughter. I remember the show's producer addressing the cast change in the TV Guide Fall Preview issue and raving about this new actress who was going to be a star. And he was right. She stood out from the other child actors in the show right from the start. Her portrayal of Buddy on Family was one of the most realistic and sensitive depictions of late adolescence I've ever seen.
    But as we know Hollywood isn't always about talent. I think Kristy's "ordinariness" helped and hurt her career. She wasn't beautiful, or interestingly plain. She just looked like the checkout girl at the supermarket. She was relatable, yet forgettable at the same time. I can imagine Pakula being attracted to her intelligence and earnestness, but being perplexed on how to tap the other qualities needed for her to be a leading lady. Obviously the wardrobe, make up and hair departments on the film didn't help much either.
    Jodie Foster had the same tomboyish quality as a child actor that Kristy did. Jodie's intelligence was never mixed with sweetness like Kristy's was. Maybe that changed the trajectories of their careers.
    As someone who is diagnosed as bipolar, I sympathize with how challenging dealing with career pressures eventually became for her. Although she may not have been diagnosed when she made this film, the intense swings between depression and mania that characterize the disorder may have unknowingly infused her performance with a truth she was not aware of. Same with her coming to terms with her sexuality. She was grappling with so many complexities in her real life, it's no wonder her work here has a raw honesty to it.
    Thanks again, Ken, for a mindful essay -- and a surprise dose of Justin Deas. A bonus!

    1. I don’t know when I’ve ever been as pleased (and surprised!) by anything as this unexpected love-feat for Justin Deas! I hope he knows how many young girls he held/holds in thrall. As is often the case when others take note of something I have perhaps passes over (I left the film with a strong impression of his being handsome in that slightly corrupt way I associate with many of the guys I had crushes on in art school), and that he has great legs. I had no idea he was a soap heartthrob on the order of Anthony Geary.

      Your assessment of Pakula’s work is apt and astute in evaluating how the qualities that help to distinguish some of his films are the very ones which can prove a disadvantage in stories where a bit of engaged passion or invested neurosis might have helped. Adrian Lyne II absolutely adore “Unfaithful) is a good example of the kind of director “Dream Lover” could have used. Even Brian De Palma.

      And what a thoughtful and well-founded evaluation of Kristy McNichol and the issues with her image! You really nail it. She was talented and popular, but Hollywood’s limited imagination when it comes to women didn’t include knowing what to do with sweetly asexual (Linda Blair, Jodie Foster, and Tatum O’Neal had their images sexualized at creepily early ages).
      And a special thanks for sharing your personal story and experience of being diagnosed bipolar. When “Dream Lover” came out McNichol has weathered a period of the worst press of her career. Symptoms of what later would be diagnosed as bipolar began to manifest during the making of 1984s “Just the Way You Are.” And, similar to what happened with Patty Duke, the erratic behavior and mood swings were attributed to drug use and star temperament. When she appeared in this film, I still think it was before she had been clinically diagnosed. In any event, there’s certainly an emotional edge to her performance that has a certain poignancy when placed in perspective of all that must have been going on in her private life.
      I thank YOU, Roberta, for contributing such a truly thoughtful and perceptive comment. A good example of the kind of collaborative feel of this “comments” section. Remarkably, you’ve provided a lot of intelligent insight to the film even without even having seen it.

  4. Hi Ken - have not thought of this movie in a long, long time. You've made me want to see it again.

    I was a big, big fan of Kristy McNichol. I always had such a crush on tomboy types, and with Little Darlings, I was in heaven with Tatum and Kristy (where I also discovered Matt Dillon was even prettier!)

    My favorite TV drama growing up was Family, with Kristy, Sada Thompson, James Broderick and Meredith Baxter (Birney)....Kristy's character of Buddy was exactly my age, and I loved how real and engaging that show was.

    So sad for us that she hardly works anymore, but Hollywood is no place for people with mental have to have nerves of steel to work in that business! I hope she is well, and am glad that she finally came out...the more LGBT visibility, the better....

    What a blast from the past! Will look for Dream Lover...was not aware it was Pakula who directed it, not his usual cup of tea.

    1. Hi Chris
      I wish I had a memory of McNichol during her "Family" days. I never watched it (I think it started my first year of college,s o too busy), but I have a disticnt memoryof seeing a clip or photo and taking it for granted that Buddy was a boy.
      I felt startled and foolish when I later learned it was a little Jodie Foster type little girl. (It still amazes me, from my days as a theater usher, the number of people who sat through the entirety of "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and still came away from it thinking Jodie was a preteen boy).
      Anyhow, as much as I like and Miss McNichol myself, I do admire that she retired in 2001 and left what was probably a certain amount of Hollywood craziness behind for a chance at having a life. I'm also glad she didn't wait until she was like 87 before coming out.
      She was long out of the limelight and didn't need to do it, but, for the visibility reason you state, it's an admirable gesture on her part to come out "officially."
      "Dream Lover" is certainly a curio from the past. Perhaps not an undiscovered classic, but certainly worth re-checking out if you haven't seen it in years.
      Thanks, Chris!

  5. the best movie of kristy's career? summer of my german soldier. then again, acting partner esther rolle can make bad actors passable and good actors interesting.

  6. Hi Ken-
    Thanks for reviewing such a little remembered/respected film. I've always liked Kristy McNichol, especially the comedic side represented by her work on "Empty Nest" and "Just The Way You Are". (I know the latter is terrible but it's one of my fave bits of 80s romantic cheese. She's adorable in it, especially considering the personal turmoil she was in while making it.) As time goes on my level of regret for the shortness of her acting career gets higher, as the woman had serious dramatic chops. (She is one of the top criers in the business.) I tried giving this one a chance back in the late 80s but I didn't really like it; thanks to you I enjoyed revisiting it due to McNichol's performance. I agree she's good in it.
    Being a fan of "Just", the most memorable part back then was she was playing a flutist for a second time in a row...what was up with that? Did Pakula see her miming in the earlier film and actually think it was convincing? Your comments about that aspect are especially hilarious to me.
    The lack of chemistry between Kristy and her flute isn't the only problem with the jazz combo storyline. She has very little chemistry with Deas either, which makes the fact that he won a Daytime Emmy 6 times (!) all the more ironic. (Thank you commenters, as I couldn't quite place where I knew him from.) You can't blame the lack of chemistry on the film in general, as she DOES have some with Masters, which saves the latter half from some of the tedium you describe. The ending however can't do anything but disappoint.
    All in all there are enough positives to make it an interesting that could never live up to what that teaser trailer promises!

    1. Hi Pete
      I'm so backlogged, I'm going to have to hit your engaging and entertaining post comments backwards!
      Like you, I think McNichol is a fabulous dramatic actress (you're right, she IS one of the top criers in the business), but I always got a kick out of her comedy chops on Empty Nest. I'm not so fond of JUST THE WAY YOU ARE, but since I like her in the almost unwatchable THE PIRATE MOVIE, I get no "taste" points on that score.
      I didn't know Deas what such a popular and awarded soap star! Just goes to show.
      I'm glad you gave this film another look-see. It reminds me a bit of Meryl Streep's STILL OF THE NIGHT -- as much as I like it, I'm made aware of the elements that, as you note, can't help but disappoint. Both film seem overloaded with good ideas and potential. That they're not fulfilled is built into the expectations that come with the casts and behind the camera talent.
      Given how very few films McNichol made, I grow fonder of this movie with each passing year. Thanks very much, Pete!