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Absurdities of romance and relationships sink See You in the Morning

Tearsheets: Send them to both Allied AND Laura Kim

SEE YOU IN THE MORNING

Written and directed by Alan J. Pakula.

Starring Jeff Bridges, Alice Krige,

Farrah Fawcett, and Lukas Haas.

At the Copley Place Theater.

By MANAVENDRA K. THAKUR

THE BIG HOOPLA ABOUT Alan J. Pakula's new film, See You in the Morning, is that Hollywood is supposed to have finally realized that a lot of married couples these days break up and that many children grow up in divorced families. As usual, Hollywood's version of reality is behind the times by a pathetic 15 or 20 years. Because the script is hollow and timid, the film ends up hokey and silly, at times becoming patently absurd. It is plain that Pakula was far more in command of his filmmaking abilities when he adapted Sophie's Choice to the screen in 1982.

This is isn't to say that the film is totally worthless. It does have some believably human characters, decent acting, and an ambitious flashback structure. The film is a romantic comedy about the efforts of two white upper-middle-class families, the Livingstons and the Goodwins, to get on with their lives after divorce and remarriage. Soon after the families break up, Mr. Livingston (Jeff Bridges) meets Beth Goodwin (Alice Krige) at a party organized by a mutual friend named Sydney (Linda Lavin). Larry and Beth discover they both suffer from migraine headaches and decide to get married, and the rest of the film tells their story as they explore their new relationships with each other and their children.

Larry's job as a psychiatrist doesn't help him with his inability to adjust to his new role as stepfather to Beth's children. In the grand scheme of things, this isn't terribly significant, but Larry's persona is believable and basically understandable. Meanwhile, Beth faces her own personal feelings of inadequacy and penchant for self-deprecation. Her psychological state of affairs requires slightly more suspension of belief but it, too, is acceptable.

Hordes of problems arise, however, when Larry and Beth have to face the conflicts that their respective handicaps create between them. What happens is that Larry goes to visit his ex-wife Jo (Farrah Fawcett) and her dying mother (Frances Sternhagen), who was particularly close to Larry. Jo works as a model, and she is particularly seductive now. As might be expected, Larry comes close to having an affair with Jo. Understandably, Beth gets upset at Larry when he tells her about it. The film, which really hasn't accomplished much in this whole sequence, now begins to fall apart at the seams.

Beth decides that their marriage was a mistake, and the couple agrees to separate. Incredibly, sudden twin migraine headaches affect them, renewing their relationship. The kids miraculously accept Larry as their stepfather, and the family soon moves out of their house to begin a new life.

This has to rank as one of most absurd reconciliations in recent Hollywood romances. Pakula could have shown how Larry's indiscretion might have magnified Beth's lack of confidence and sense of inadequacy. Or Pakula might have further explored Jo's character (whose total screentime is less than ten minutes) and her reasons for leaving Larry in the first place. Even better, he could have focused inward on Beth and Larry as they try to save their marriage. Instead of doing any of these, however, Pakula jumps for the requisite happy ending and winds up with an appallingly stupid cop-out.

The rest of the film can't save the ending since it merely ranges from average to good. Jeff Bridges' acting is at his best when he delivers bold and brashy lines as he did in Francis Coppola's Tucker. Alice Krige's performance is consistently good, but her native British accent keeps threatening to take over. Lukas Haas has grown considerably since he played the young Amish boy in Peter Weir's Witness, and he does manage to portray Beth's troubled son Petey effectively. The film's technical construction is solid and professional, but like the acting, is not terribly inspired. A decade ago, Kramer vs. Kramer was much more successful at bolstering its problematic ending with top-notch performances and a simple but effective cinematic style.

The most that See You in the Morning offers today is an opportunity for audiences to sigh "Awwwwwwww!" when young Petey says "I love you" to his new stepdad. It also allows audiences to squeal in delight when Bridges, dressed like Eros in a loincloth, proposes to Beth. Otherwise, the film doesn't accomplish much since it has only a tenuous grasp on reality, and it throws even that away. Pakula spends a lot of effort to look as though he's getting somewhere. In reality, however, the film is just plodding along -- a decade and half too late.