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STARTING OVER (1979)
An adaptation of Dan Wakefield's novel, the story tells of the trials and tribulations of divorcee Phil Potter. After divorcing his wife Phil Potter decides to move on. After finding a new woman with whom he "falls in love all over again" with, he thinks he finally has. All the same, Potter can't quite seem to get over his wife and his inability to let go of his past begins to affect his present and future in a very comedic way.
Alan J. Pakula's STARTING OVER is a fun, funny look at dating, divorce, and single life.
A mild mannered, divorced writer, Phil Potter (Burt Reynolds) attempts to get on with his life following his divorce, from his unfaithful wife, Jessica (Candice Bergen), a wanna be, self-absorbed song writer, who dumped him.
After he finds out that his wife was sleeping with his boss, and she wants a divorce, he packs up what he owns in a suit case, and heads for Boston where his brother, Dr. Michael Potter (Charles Durning) and caring, motherly sister-in-law, Marva (Frances Sternhagen) live, who immediately introduce him to Marilyn Holmberg (Jill Clayburgh), a talented nursery school teacher. Although Phil is not really ready for a new romance, he enters into a relationship with Marilyn Holmberg, after dating a few other women. Humorous consequences arise when Phil's ex-wife, Jessica unexpectedly drops in on him, just as Marilyn is moving in with him. It creates a huge dilemma for Phil, as it seems that Jessica wants him back.
In between Phil's experiences, we go with Phil to his divorced men's workshop held in the basement of a church. The members of Phil's support group for divorced men talk about the problems of being divorced in a humorous, yet poignant way, and offer Phil sound advice, which helps him make the right choices in his struggles.
This clever screenplay, by James L. Brooks ("Terms of Endearment" and "The Simpsons"), explores, in a humorous way, the various problems, and challenges that result from a divorce. Brooks also co-produced it.
The solid pacing and great direction of this film shows the versatility of the late Alan Pakula, who usually was known for his direction work on such dramatic films such as "The Pelican Brief," "Sophie's Choice," "All The President's Men," and "Klute." This romantic comedy is quite a departure, and an accomplishment, for him.
The film was shot on location, in Boston, in the Winter. The film benefits from, real, well lensed, (if chilly), locations. The talented, much-admired Swedish Sven Nykvist did the cinematograhy. Nykvist worked on a long list of films with Igmar Burgen, and won two Oscars for his film work on "Cries and Whispers," and "Fanny and Alexander." He also worked with Woody Allen on "Crimes and Misdemeanors." Nykist is a meticulous artisan who operates the camera himself, as well as doing his own lighting.
Burt Reynolds and Jill and Candy are all great! Both Candace and Jill received academy award nominations for their performances in this film.
Candace excels as the self-absorbed, tone-deaf song writer, Jessica, who after she kicks her husband, Phil out, decides that she wants him back after experiencing about 4 months of the freedom she thought she wanted.
Jill Clayburgh is brilliant in her portrayal of a woman, who despite her rule of not dating recently divorced men, finds herself falling in love wih Phil, who temporarily breaks her heart when he tries to reconcile with Jessica.
This is one of Reynold's best roles, and does a great job showing his unmacho character's vulnerability, his stress of having to start over, his uncomfortable plunge into the dating scene, and his conflicting feelings he has when he has to choose between his new love, and his ex wife who now wants him back. He finally comes to a final decision concerning Jessica, and comes back to what he truly feels, and goes back to the person he truly loves after talking to a member of his support group.
A favorite scene takes place between Bergen and Reynolds. Although their marriage was ended by their divorce, Bergen attempts to seduce him back, after Phil has already fallen in love with Marilyn. Wearing a see-through blouse and with some REALLY BAD singing, she sings her newest hit, "Better than Ever," hoping to take him back. Candace sang her heart out, extremely off-key. Both Candace and Reynolds kept a straight face, and stayed in character, being the professionals that they are.
The entire cast is a talented ensemble, well-casted for their parts. Even small, supporting characters are memorable, having great moments. Phil's psychiatrist brother, Michael Potter (Charles Durning), and his motherly sister-in-law, Marva Potter (Frances Sternhagen), do their best to be helpful and support Phil emotionally as he struggles through his personal pain and the dilemmas of the storyline.
A favorite sequence of scenes between Durning and Reynolds happens in the funriture section of a department store, where Reynolds and Clayburgh were looking for a sofa. Phil( Reynolds) has a panic attack and can't breathe, and his brother, Dr. Michael Potter (Durning) is called to come help him. Humorous and poignant at the same time, this scene forces Phil to make a choice.
Mary Kay Place has a very funny bit part as the first woman, Marie, that Phil takes out on a date since his divorce. She is her usual hilarious self.
The members of Phil's support group for divorced
men (notably Alfie Wise, Austin Pendleton, and Wallace Shawn)
talk about the problems of being divorced in a humorous, yet poignant
way, and have a small but important role in the storyline.
Chorus of Jessica's song: "It will be better than eva, better than eva (ever)"