Never Again

Kudos to writer-director Eric Schaeffer for doing a sexually graphic romantic comedy about fiftysomethings without being patronizing or cutesy. With both heart and guts, he honestly depicts how that moony-eyed, falling-in-love rush of endorphins is the same at 55 as it is at 15, and that even middle-aged lovers can act like stupid adolescents — leading...read more

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Reviewed by Frank Lovece
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Kudos to writer-director Eric Schaeffer for doing a sexually graphic romantic comedy about fiftysomethings without being patronizing or cutesy. With both heart and guts, he honestly depicts how that moony-eyed, falling-in-love rush of endorphins is the same at 55 as it is at 15, and that even middle-aged lovers can act like stupid adolescents — leading to, it's safe to say, the most hilariously audacious scene an aristocratic Hollywood actress will ever do. Yet with a tone as variable as the cinematography, Schaeffer's film never settles into the light-footed enchantment the material needs, and the characters' quirks and foibles never jell into charm. In Manhattan, the bald, morosely walrus-like Christopher (Jeffrey Tambor) runs the small All-Boro Pest Control. When not killing cockroaches, he plays jazz piano at a Greenwich Village nightspot. (Aficionados will recognize the exterior as Smoke, a well-known Upper West Side jazz club.) Despite his looks and his unsympathetic, sometimes viciously nasty personality, the dry-witted Christopher has his share of jazz-groupie sex and relationships that he usually quits before, in his mind, he gets thrown out. Lately he's been experiencing impotency and homoerotic dreams, making him wonder if he's gay. Grace (Jill Clayburgh), meanwhile, is an upscale unmarried woman whose daughter (real-life offspring Lily Rabe) has left for college. The fluttery Grace, who last had sex seven years ago, has said never again to dating; we can see why after her two well-meaning friends, Natasha (Sandy Duncan) and Elaine (Caroline Aaron), set her up on an Internet blind date that becomes squirmingly embarrassing. In less-than-consistent character, Grace casually shrugs off her vow during a girls'-night-out that winds up at a gay bar, where Christopher, halfheartedly giving the scene a try, asks her out. The movie's lack of stardust couldn't be clearer than here, in which the meet-cute complication (he initially thinks she's transgendered) just sits dead in the water. Partly it's because Schaeffer, himself an actor, indulges his performers with endless extreme close-ups whether justified by the moment or not, often turning scenes oppressive. And as a writer, he often undercuts a potentially human moment with an out-of-character throwaway joke. Thankfully, he does do a proper character buildup that results in one howlingly funny variation on a classic slapstick set-up, here involving an unexpected guest and a strap-on sex toy that, no matter how hard Grace tries, she can't remove. And for that bit of deftness, give kudos to Clayburgh.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Review: Kudos to writer-director Eric Schaeffer for doing a sexually graphic romantic comedy about fiftysomethings without being patronizing or cutesy. With both heart and guts, he honestly depicts how that moony-eyed, falling-in-love rush of endorphins is the sam… (more)

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