Lopsided comedy turned tearjerker, saved by excellent performances. TV veteran James Brooks ("Mary Tyler Moore Show") wrote, directed, and co-produced the film which examines a 30-year period in the lives of Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter, Emma (as a child, Jennifer
Josey; as an adult, Debra Winger). Aurora is guilty of "smother" love, and, as Emma grows up, she can't wait to escape her mother's suffocating hold. In the face of her mother's anger, Emma marries Flap (Jeff Daniels), has three children, and moves away. All the while, Aurora is wooed by
ex-astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson), an uncouth bachelor whose persistence and unfailing good humor begin to wear her down.
Winger is absolutely winning all the way, with a deathbed scene that may not have been equalled since Bette Davis lay down in DARK VICTORY. MacLaine works like a slow-cooker. The early scenes are her usual stabs at caricature (almost every choice in a dining room scene is wrong), but she is freed
by Nicholson; their scenes have a great element of play to them. About the time she demands better hospital treatment for her daughter, she begins to take chances and ventures into virtuoso territory. Nicholson, while certainly not worth the $1 million pricetag for his services, delivers an
amusing variation on himself. Brooks writes some of the best dialogue around, but the film is directed in a perfunctory fashion, and many scenes go on far too long. Needless to say, it was a huge commercial success; it's one of those movies that manipulates you into thinking it touched you while
it's balancing its bank account. And the box-office profited by gossip that the leading ladies despised each other--making it one of those detective watches for more hardened viewers. Something for everyone, indeed. leave a comment