Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Never Again (2001, DVD) is a delightful comedy of love in the 50's. Not the 1950'S but, rather, that midlife age. A 50+ year old couple, played by Jill Clayburgh and Jeffrey Tambor, struggle through re-commitment, sexual desire, and difficult histories. This is a real movie: that is, a story about real people; played by superb actors.
Jeffrey Tambor, though not often found on the cover of tabloids, should be well-known as the veteran of some 85 movies and 50 special appearances on TV. He projects a kind of goofy honesty.
Kind and tough, confused and certain, intelligent and helpless, conflicting emotions and ideas waft across Jill Clayburgh's face like ever-changing clouds moving across the sky.
Jill Clayburgh's daughter, Lily Rabe (nominated as 2005 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for her work in Steel Magnolias), also appears in the film.
The characters are raunchy. There's slapstick, far-out fantasy humor, and sharp dialog.
But there is one strange moment. Near the beginning of the film, Jill's character, Grace, begins talking to her husband's young wife as if she thinks the wife is her daughter going off to college. Now, I suppose this is cutting sarcasm on Grace's part. But (I'm sorry) this is so near the beginning of the film, when I did not know the characters, and it is played so straight, that for many minutes into the film I wondered whether Grace really didn't know her daughter because she was developing Alzheimer's Disease.
Although this is not a film about the fifties, it is a period piece, firmly rooted in the time when it was written -- (turn of the millennium). It is amazing how changing style and technology can date a movie. In this case, one pivotal plot point setting half the story off just would not occur today, in the age of Viagra. I think it is wonderful when a story is so specific that the details tell you surprising truths about a particular moment in time
Films tend to be made, as everyone knows, mostly for teen-age boys and their dates, because the non-teen age executives find they make the most money with teen-targeted comic-book-type fantasies and over-the-top spectacles. It would be great to develop a reliable audience for mature films like Never Again, that entertain with substance and sophisticated humor, with rich and subtly realized characters.
Jill Clayburgh is also currently in previews for A NAKED GIRL ON THE APPIAN WAY, probably the best promoted and most promising new play in New York. I'm really looking forward to seeing that!