- Movie Rating -

Head Over Heels (1979)

| October 19, 1979

It is strange that in the same weekend that I saw Running, the insipid Michael Douglas sports movie ripped off from Best Picture winner Rocky, I also happened upon Head Over Heels, the insipid John Heard romantic comedy ripped off from Best Picture winner Annie Hall.  I haven’t seen yet seen a movie ripped off from The Deer Hunter but I’m sure it’s coming.  God help us all.

Between the two films, Head Over Heels is the better movie, but that’s not saying much.  Running was about a self-defeating narcissist who succeeds at the Olympics, but the characters in Head over Heels don’t reach that high. 

Heard plays Charles, an unnoticeable office worker bee eeking out a living in Salt Lake City and spends most of his free time obsessing over his old girlfriend, a librarian named Laura (Mary Beth Hurt).  Just like Annie Hall, the movie begins in the present after the relationship has fallen apart and then flashes back to tell us how they met, how they fell in love and what went wrong.  In a twist, this movie offers up the information that the girl, Laura, was married when they met.  But Charles’ pursuit of her caused her to realize that she wasn’t happy in her marriage and should be with a much better catch.

Potentially, this could work.  The formula of Annie Hall is that the relationship ended when the movie starts but we never saw Alvy Singer moping about and wondering what she was doing.  The sad overtones rested entirely on what we saw in the flashbacks.  The writer, Joan Micklin Silver, tries to one-up that scenario by having us attach our sympathies to Charles’ plight by watching him mope around and mourn the passing of a relationship that is long-since dead and buried.

The problem is that when we see Laura and Charles in flashbacks, we don’t really see anything for him to mourn over.  He is obsessive about her, and that puts us off.  What is suppose to be endearing just gets creepy and unsettling.  Plus, their dialogue feels like a writer writing dialogue.  A good example is a scene in which they are standing in front of a poster for a porn film:

Charles: You’re prettier than she is.
Laura: Now I’m prettier then a porno star.  Would you stop it?
Charles: Stop what?
Laura: We go to movies and you say I look better than the movie stars. We go to the best restaurant in town and you say I’m a better cook than the chef. You have this exulted view of me and I hate it. If you think I’m that great, there must be something wrong with you.

Even as a flashback the scenes don’t work because you keep wondering why they exist at all.  There is a grounded quality to this film that makes it feel all too real and that gives Charles the feeling of being less lovesick and more of a creepy stalker.  Even the poster to this movie feels creepy.

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