Director Stanley Donen delivers all the insouciance and glamour you'd expert from a veteran of Hollywood musicals. But though he elicits charming performances from his strong cast, Donen never figures out how to make A. R. Gurney’s epistolary play look like a movie rather than a filmed theater piece.
Andy Ladd (Steven Weber) has had a crush on Melissa Gardner (Laura Linney) ever since they were third graders. Their friendship has lasted throughout the years, even though they never had a romance: When they were adolescents, Melissa kept the love-struck Andy at bay in a coquettish fashion. Instead of acting on their impulses, the WASP soul-mates allowed the disapproval of Andy's parents and Melissa's innate contrariness shape their futures. Bouncing from boarding school to boarding school, Melissa conquers her share of beaux but realizes that Andy is one of a kind. The one time they hook up at a college weekend, Andy
is struck by temporary impotence, which he blames on impossible expectations. Andy, who thinks he might want to undertake a career in politics, serves honorably in Viet Nam and nearly marries a Vietnamese woman, but allows himself to be dissuaded. Melissa careens recklessly into marriage, motherhood and an art
career, but when she has a nervous breakdown, Andy drops everything to visit. After he's built a successful law career and wed a suitably plain politician’s wife and started a family, Andy reconnects with the dazzling Melissa. Not only does their affair set D.C. tongues wagging, but the divorced Melissa proves too demanding, perhaps because she realizes deep down that they're too constitutionally different to live together. But their lifelong bond burns brighter than any other love they encounter in their lives.
The appeal of Gurney's stage hit, which has been performed all over the world, is never entirely clear in Donen's made-for-cable version. But Weber is impressive as a buttoned-down, bottled-up romantic and Linney, even saddled with the role of an adorable free-spirit, who, deep-down, needs the safe harbor of a monogamous man.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Director Stanley Donen delivers all the insouciance and glamour you'd expert from a veteran of Hollywood musicals. But though he elicits charming performances from his strong cast, Donen never figures out how to make A. R. Gurney’s epistolary play look lik… (more)