- Movie Rating -

Chapter Two (1979)

| December 14, 1979

I generally have a problem with Neil Simon’s work, and I say that knowing what a celebrated playwright he was.  Who am I to question a man who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama?  Well, here I am, and here I go.  My problem is that Simon’s work never seems to have a sense of real life.  His situations seem grounded but his dialogue is always just a few inches off the ground, much like sitcom writing.  It’s bigger than reality, very line is twisted with a joke and ever situation ends with a cute little button.  People don’t talk like they do in his plays.

Chapter Two is devastated by this tactic.  Every conversation is cute.  Every line is cute.  The dialogue seems to contain confections where there should be meat and with this story, it’s like sticking little pins on your toes.  The story is partly autobiographical, based on Simon’s own experience getting over the loss of his wife Joan in 1973.  But the movie doesn’t have the confidence to really deal with such grief.  Simon jokes his way through the scenario of a man dealing with grief and trying to get back into the dating scene.

James Caan plays Simon’s stand-in, George Schneider, a successful writer is goaded by his lothario brother Leo (Joseph Bologna) to get back into the dating pool.  He sets George up with good-hearted Jennie MacLaine, and the two slowly – very slowly – meet-cute into romance and eventually marriage.

This very simple premise is overcooked by an overextended running time and buckets of repetition.  The central drive of their problems centers on George’s inability to move past his feelings for his late wife and to dedicate himself to Jennie.  That’s fine, but the movie never really deals with that.  It hovers over the proceedings but their arguments always feel like games of one-upmanship.  It’s as if Simon wanted to write this story but the central meat of his problem was just too painful to deal with.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized