The latest from veteran helmer Bud Yorkin (COME BLOW YOUR HORN, TWICE IN A LIFETIME), LOVE HURTS bumps from quarrel to quarrel trying to find out whether there's anything funny about dysfunctional families.
Ex-baseball pro Paul Weaver (Jeff Daniels) is a sad, dishevelled Manhattanite pining for his estranged wife and kids in Pennsylvania but hooked on one-night stands. He is served divorce papers upon arriving home to his barren apartment after an anonymous encounter and decides he needs to visit his
parents. At the same time, broken pipes force Paul's spouse, Nancy (Cynthia Skyes), and son and daughter to move into his parents' home. It also happens to be Paul's sister Karen's (Amy Wright) wedding weekend. After 10 hours on the highway, Paul dozes at the wheel and nearly smashes into an
oncoming truck carrying small-town Susan Volchek (Judith Ivey) and her husband and son. Verging on a fight with the husband, Paul speeds off leaving Susan entranced.
Paul's long-suffering mother, Ruth (Cloris Leachman), is delighted to see him, but in a tizzy because she is about to serve lunch to her in-laws and her own alcoholic husband, Boomer (John Mahoney), hasn't yet arrived from his local bar. Paul's wife and nine-year-old daughter, Sarah (Mary
Griffin), on the other hand, are not pleased to see him, and after an immediate confrontation, he storms out. He heads to the varsity ball field where he meets up with Susan again and nearly seduces her, but a wave of guilt forces him back to his parents' with a puppy for Sarah. Once again, his
arrival stimulates a screaming match and he ends up boozing with his dad. The cops bring both drunks home where his and Nancy's habitual row spins them into his old bedroom. They fall into bed and unknowingly on top of Sarah: "Is this a nightmare?" she screams. The reunion quickly explodes in a
din of accusations and disappointment, and Paul spends the night in his car.
The next day is Karen's wedding. It's pouring. Boomer is drunk and ashamed and refuses to go into the church to give away the bride, and Karen refuses to exit her chamber to get married. Paul convinces her to go through with the wedding and escorts his sister down the aisle himself. In the hour
preceding the reception, Paul runs into Susan and the two decide to sneak off to the "No-tell Motel." After feeding her the same lines he dished to his wife the night before and also to his last lover, Paul catches himself; he can't go through with it. Back at the reception, Boomer has sobered up
and is dancing with an accepting Karen, but Sarah decides to run away upon sight of her own father. Paul catches her and asks her to move back to the city with him. She agrees as long as she can have the big room and paint it purple.
Marriage and pain are bound tightly in LOVE HURTS, and bound inextricably for those who have messed-up parents. The film's three generations keep replacing each other--Grandpa is a pathetic alcoholic, Paul a careening, irresponsible loser, and even David, the teenage son, is proving to be an
emotionally distant ladies' man. The women are all forgiving but angrily turned inward. Outside of a couple of effervescently screwy scenes, such as when jabbering Grandma blithely wraps the bride Karen in Saran wrap before she braves the rain to reach the waiting limo, laughing at the family's
mounting trials is like laughing at someone who has just slammed a finger in a door. With each scene, the characters' nerves tighten and Paul gets closer to the end of his rope. He seems to spoil everything he touches and to be lurching toward tragedy--Sarah having an accident perhaps, or Susan
trying to commit suicide--which would turn LOVE HURTS into the straight drama it possibly should have been. A violent storm is necessary to burst the whole family's tension. But, instead, we are offered a queasy resolution--Karen goes through with her marriage and Sarah substitutes for her mom in
Paul's house, which is more depressing than a tragedy as it offers no chance for change.
LOVE HURTS is a perfect companion to all those books characterizing dysfunctional families except without the solutions. The characters are well acted in their relentless pathos; thus they become increasingly repellant to watch. Only Sarah, probably the worst off of all, offers some variety and
relief. She is miserable but savvy and ready to work her parents' divorce for everything she can get. Nowadays, maybe there isn't a way of halting the geometric disintegration of the nuclear family; however, comedy is a callous forum for this revelation. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: The latest from veteran helmer Bud Yorkin (COME BLOW YOUR HORN, TWICE IN A LIFETIME), LOVE HURTS bumps from quarrel to quarrel trying to find out whether there's anything funny about dysfunctional families. Ex-baseball pro Paul Weaver (Jeff Daniels) is a… (more)