As one of the first participants in the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women, actress Dyan Cannon received a 1976 Academy Award nomination for NUMBER ONE, in the category of best live action short. Now, making her feature directorial debut, Cannon showcases her limited
dramatic range--screaming, crying, pounding her fists, smoking pot and binge eating--in THE END OF INNOCENCE, a shrill, noisy self-help melodrama.
Cannon stars as the adult Stephanie Lewis (portrayed as an 18-year-old by the late Rebecca Schaeffer), born to unloving, demanding, constantly quarreling parents (George Coe and Lola Mason) who won't buy her a puppy. From the start, she's pulled in opposite directions by the important people in
her life. Coming from mixed Jewish-Christian parentage, she's brought up to believe that Christ both is and is not the Messiah. She's taught as a child that sex is wrong by her dad. But, as an adult, her mom's first question to Stephanie whenever she has a new boyfriend is invariably, "So, how's
Further tribulations ensue. Stephanie's father tries to start her on a career at his firm only to fire her. Her boyfriends fail to return her love and fidelity. She marries and divorces a boring yuppie, who refuses to let her find herself and about whom her mother's perennial question prompts the
answer, "What sex?" Stephanie develops addictions to drugs and food (although, rest assured, not an ounce of it ever shows up on Cannon's svelte frame). With her current boyfriend flaunting his infidelities and her parents screaming at her more loudly than ever, she eventually has a full-blown
breakdown, landing her in a private asylum where she is tended to by Dean (John Heard), a caring psychiatrist.
Amid a lot more bravura screaming and gnashing of teeth, Stephanie learns to get in touch with her feelings. She leaves the asylum a whole woman who can say no to her parents, even though they finally buy her that puppy, and to her boyfriends, who nonetheless seem to be carbon copies of the hunky
chauvinist swine she was attracted to before her breakdown. When last glimpsed, she is finding self-fulfillment as an aerobics instructor and palling around with the colorfully eccentric character actors who comprised her asylum therapy group.
There are probably some people somewhere in the world, Cannon and her immediate friends and family included, who will find Stephanie's weeny, whiny problems the stuff of gripping drama. But for everybody else, THE END OF INNOCENCE is bound to serve as yet more evidence of how frighteningly out of
touch with the real world hardcore Hollywood people really are.
On most reality scales, Stephanie's problems rate about a notch or two above bad indigestion. Yet they are treated here as the equivalent of Shakespearean tragedy, as if nobody in the world ever grew up with disagreeable parents or fell in love with the wrong people before Stephanie did. The tone
throughout, like the general level of performances, especially Cannon's, is oppressive, overwrought, over-insistent and overbearing, with nary a moment of leavening wit or humor from the actress-writer-director who includes films by Paul Mazursky, Herbert Ross and Blake Edwards in her resume.
In all fairness, THE END OF INNOCENCE is a technically slick, well-made film that looks and sounds far more expensive than it probably cost to make and that reveals Cannon as a director with basically sound storytelling instincts. The problem, in this case, is that she has no story to tell beyond
the sum total of its cliches about co-dependency, therapy and self-help, and a main character who is just too numbingly unexceptional to warrant feature film treatment. Cannon may be a director to watch in the future, but THE END OF INNOCENCE is an unwatchable film. (Substance abuse, profanity,adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: As one of the first participants in the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women, actress Dyan Cannon received a 1976 Academy Award nomination for NUMBER ONE, in the category of best live action short. Now, making her feature directorial debu… (more)