Robert Mulligan

Same Time, Next Year

Same Time Next Year

1978                           

Universal Pictures

Directed by Robert Mulligan

Produced by Walter Mirisch and Morton Gottlieb

Written by Bernard Slade based on his play

Romantic comedies are most definitely not my favorite genre of movie when I sit down to be entertained by a movie.  I’d rather go get a tooth pulled than have to sit through anything resembling a romantic comedy because when you talk about predictable story and overwrought acting, that’s the genre that specializes in that kinda stuff.  But even a stone-hearted boor such as myself has to admit that there have been a couple of movies in the genre that I have managed to sit through mainly because they’re somewhat different from the usual romantic comedy in terms of story and acting I submit for your approval SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR

George (Alan Alda) and Doris (Ellen Burstyn) are staying separately at the same California resort inn on the Monterey coast one weekend in 1951.  He’s there on business to do the taxes for a client who owns a winery and she’s there because her husband and her kids are visiting her mother-in-law and the mother-in-law cannot stand Doris who she thinks tricked her son into getting married. So Doris tells her husband she’s going to a Catholic retreat so he won’t worry about her being alone.  One night George and Doris are the only ones having dinner in the inn’s main dining room.  They look up, their eyes meet, they smile and before they know it, they’re having dessert and coffee and they talk.  And talk.  And talk.  And before they know it, it’s the next day, they’re waking up in each other’s arms and they’re in love.

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Neither one of them wants to leave their spouses.  They both have responsibilities to their children and the people they have back home.  So they hit on a novel arraignment: every year on the same weekend they’ll stay at the same inn in the same room and spend a weekend together.  And it’s an arraignment that lasts for 26 years through laughter, tragedy, good times and bad.

Now some might question the morality of this arraignment and see it as an endorsement of adultery.  And certainly George and Doris never even bring up the question of not starting the affair or breaking it up at any time during the movie.  And as we never see their spouses (we get to know them through the stories George and Doris tell) we can’t judge how those relationships are.  George and Doris appear to be happy and secure in their marriages and they don’t have a reason to be cheating.  But I think the movie is trying to show two people who if they had met under the right circumstances could have married and had an extremely happy and satisfying life together.  It’s like that old song says: “It’s sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.”

During the course of the movie we see how the couple grow and develop along with the changing attitudes of the country.  Doris goes from being a somewhat naïve suburban housewife to anti-Vietnam War protestor /middle-aged college student to sharp and confident businesswoman.  George starts out as a high strung, neurotic accountant who is comically unsure of himself, goes to 70’s therapy addict and finally ends up as a mature adult man who is able to see himself for what he is, deal with it and be happy.   It’s quite a range for both of the actors as they’re on screen every minute of the movie.  It was based on a play and the movie is virtually like a play since except for a few brief scenes that take place in the inn’s dining room and outside the cabin they stay in, the whole movie takes place indoors with just the two characters talking.

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Alan Alda’s performance at the beginning of the movie is the one thing that might make you want to stop watching the movie.  He really overacts badly during the scenes where Doris is having a baby and (no, it’s not his) and for a brief few minutes turns the movie from light romantic comedy to almost Jerry Lewis style nuttiness.  He’s much better in the later scenes where he’s playing an older, more sedate George, especially during a painful scene where George has to tell Doris why he has changed from a happy-go-lucky liberal democrat to an almost fascist, bitter Republican.

Ellen Burstyn is clearly the better actor of the two and she knows how to play this material for all it’s worth due to her experience in Neil Simon comedies as well as having done this play on Broadway and one of the best things about the movie is watching her character grow and develop.  It’s almost a history lesson on the woman’s movement from the 1950’s to the 1970’s watching Doris change fashions and attitudes.

SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR doesn’t have what I would call a conclusion.  Instead it has a resolution that some might find unbearably corny but I thought fitted the tone of the movie just right and was the only way that these two characters could have ended up.  It’s a sweet little movie that I think is probably closer in realism to how a lot of married people conduct affairs rather than the cutesy-poo convoluted over plotting of most romantic comedies.  The actors are good, the characters are likeable and I have to admit that by the ending credits when the theme song by Johnny Mathis and Jane Oliver swelled into full sentimental mode I found myself pretending I had something in my eye.

Rated PG

119 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other

1972
20th Century Fox

Directed by Robert Mulligan
Produced By Tom Tryon and Robert Mulligan
Screenplay by Tom Tryon based on his novel

Kids have it pretty rough in horror movies. Really they do. Either they’re the victims, being terrorized and traumatized by brutal, sadistic adults and chased by big scary monsters or they’re the ones doing the terrorizing. And they get away with it most of the time because they’ve got those widdle cutie cheeks and sweet smiles. Who could imagine that behind those big wide innocent eyes such monstrous evil could exist? The child who is the main character of THE OTHER has it doubly rough because he’s both victim and monster.

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In the Depression era South the Perry farm should be a place of joy and cheer but instead its idyllic happiness is overshadowed by recent events. Alexandra Perry (Diana Muldaur) has secluded herself in her bedroom, totally incapacitated by grief over the recent accidental death of her husband. But everybody is looking forward to the birth of Torrie Rider’s (Jenny Sullivan) child including her younger brother Niles (Chris Udvarnoky) and his twin brother Holland (Martin Udvarnoky). The twin boys spend the long hot summer days playing in the barn, fishing and playing with their beloved Grandma Ada (Uta Hagen) who has taught Niles how to project his consciousness outside of his body and into other minds. Niles is curious as to why Grandma Ada won’t teach Holland how to play “the game”. It’s a question that Grandma Ada is significantly unwilling to answer since she changes the conversation every time the subject of Holland comes up.

It’s probably a good idea that Grandma Ada didn’t teach Holland “the game” as Holland appears to be a nasty little boy all on his own. There’s a hideous accident in the barn involving a pitchfork and Cousin Russell. The nearby neighbor lady has a heart attack under mysterious circumstances and Holland’s harmonica is found in her house in a place where it has no business being.  Niles carries around several objects in a Prince Albert tobacco can. One of them is the Perry family ring which was supposed to be buried with Mr. Perry. The other object tells plainly how Holland got the ring.  The realization of what Holland did drives Alexandra over the edge. But things get worse still when Torrie’s baby is kidnapped one night and the adults hysterically blame not only the kidnapping but all the other misfortunes plaguing the family on the handyman Mr. Angelini (Victor French) Grandma Ada and Niles are the only ones who seem to know the truth. Niles is unwilling to accept it and Grandma Ada realizes that despite her overwhelming love for Niles there’s only one way to deal with what Holland has become.

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THE OTHER is going to seem slow moving and plodding to most. And most are going to think they’ve figured out the secret between Niles and Holland early on but then there’s a twist at the end that may give you cause to rethink what you’ve seen yet again. And that’s what I like about THE OTHER. It’s easy to just assume this is another good twin/bad twin story but there’s considerable evidence for two or even three other explanations for what happens in this movie and it’s up to the viewer to make up their own mind as to what was real and what wasn’t. I suppose the best way to describe THE OTHER is “Southern gothic psychological horror” and if you’ve a movie-goer who has been brought up on CGI, shocks and gore every thirty seconds then this one will probably put you to sleep. The horror in THE OTHER happens mostly right in the bright, broad summer sunshine except for the totally frightening night when the baby is kidnapped. It’s a movie that takes it’s time telling its story. It won’t be rushed because it knows where it’s going and it knows where it has to take you in order to make the payoff work.

The major acting roles here are handled by Uta Hagen who is widely acclaimed as an acting teacher and is mostly known for stage work. She’s really good in her scenes with Chris Udvarnoky. He and his real life twin brother Martin do a wonderful job of conveying both innocent and menace, sometimes both in the same scene. Look for John Ritter is a small supporting role as Torrie’s husband.

So should you see THE OTHER? It’s not a movie that you’ll find on a lot of lists as recommended for viewing but I think it’s worth one viewing at least. If you’re in the mood for a horror film that’s zero on special effects but 100 on psychological barbed wire wrapping around your brain try it out. And if you need any added poking to give THE OTHER a try then how’s this: the director of this one also directed the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird” so if you liked that one (and is there anybody alive who doesn’t like “To Kill A Mockingbird”?) then by all means you oughta give this one a look.

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108 minutes
Rated PG