Picks and Pans Review: Middle Age Crazy

updated 09/15/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/15/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Movies about men's midlife crises have been done before—Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer and Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger are two interesting examples, with outstanding performances. But those predecessors do not explain why this film is unsatisfying. Nor does blame lie with the present protagonist or cast. Bruce Dern, as a Houston contractor who turns 40 and anxious at the same time, is a model of sanity in comparison with the psychos he has played of late, and Ann-Margret, as his wife, plays another bimbo-ish role expertly. The problem is a naive script by TV writer Carl Kleinschmitt, his first motion picture. Totally cynical for 93 minutes, he turns totally romantic for two. His dialogue is all clichés: "Couldn't we go somewhere, just the two of us?"; "Dad, you never listen"; "I never realized how much I love you." Dern keeps lapsing into dreary fantasies about a younger woman and/ or a $40,000 sports car. A-M's character is schizophrenic, all simpering devotion one moment and cold calculation the next. In one scene Dern sits alone, watching a videotape of birthday tributes from his family, crying. It shows how powerful he could have made this role if bad writing hadn't foiled him. (R)

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