Wednesday, February 17, 2016


In an awkward, overly mannered opening, we watch the break-up of the marriage of the Browers, James and Amy. She (Trish Van Devere) seems to think all she has to do to make things better is to apologize for throwing his copy of Milton out the window; he (Paul Jenkins), a college professor, vaguely alludes to having been unhappy for some time. He moves out of their San Francisco apartment and leaves Amy to fend for herself. She gets some guidance from her best friend Jane and from middle-aged Gert (Janet Leigh) who heads a divorcĂ©e support group. As an Art History major who's never held a job, Amy has a hard time finding employment—and has to deal with a major league asshole at an employment agency who keeps hitting on her to the point of assault—but does get a summer job as a lifeguard at a city pool. She strikes up a friendship with an older grocer on her block (Melvyn Douglas), coming to rely on him for company and advice, and eventually sticks her toe back in the dating pool with a slick, handsome businessman from out of town (Monte Markham, pictured at left with Van Devere). But she deludes herself into thinking that her husband will come back to her before the divorce is finalized, and when that proves to be far from certain (he's living with a student), her recovery from the separation trauma seems no longer a sure thing.

I suspect this is one of the first movies to take divorce and its aftermath as its main plotline. It was also riding the feminist zeitgeist wave—albeit concerning white and middle-to-upper class feminism—and shows what I'm guessing were some realistic concerns of the time for divorced women: unprepared for the work world, facing a wide range of men in the dating world, not quite believing that their husbands would really leave for good. Van Devere (later married to George C. Scott) has a delicate, 60s flower child feel about her that fits the role, and for the most part, she's fine, though she's a bit artificial in scenes of strong emotion. Douglas downplays and Leigh overplays (being bawdy for comic relief), both to good effect. Some critics fault Markham as being weak in the somewhat problematic role of the playboy suitor, but I think he's right on the mark, and bests Van Devere in their scenes together. Plotlines get tied up in mostly satisfying ways, and even, in the case of her relationship with father-figure Douglas, somewhat unpredictable ways. Fun trivia note: the guy who plays the employment agency jackass (Jonathan Goldsmith, pictured at right) is now the Most Interesting Man in the World for Dos Equis Beer. [TCM]

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