- Movie Rating -

It’s My Turn (1980)

| October 24, 1980

Hollywood is generally lacking when it comes to offering the publice a portrait of the times they are living in.  Shirley MacLaine once noted that the public is always about five years ahead of what Hollywood is ready to give them.  Therefore, it is kind of relief that the exception was the intricate nature of the Me Generation.  From Kramer vs. Kramer to Starting Over to An Unmarried Woman to Ordinary People and even bad films like Just Tell Me What You Want, Loving Couples and Middle Age Crazy, Hollywood understood the delicate nature of the changes in the culture when it came to personal relationships – possibly because those producers may have been living through it themselves.

It’s My Turn is just such an example.  When I saw it the other night, I was quick to dismiss it because I felt that its themes weren’t as sharp as those presented in those earlier films.  But since seeing it I have had another reaction.  This is a film that seems less confident about its subjects and maybe that’s the point.  The participants – a mathematician and a former professional baseball player are at odds over exactly how to have a relationship and have a personal life that doesn’t require giving your entire self.  That’s a potent bit of drama.

Kate (Jill Clayburgh) is a math professor at a prestigious Chicago university and is in a complicated state in her love life – she just moved in with her boyfriend Homer (Charles Grodin) not because she loves him but more or less because she could.  It’s not really a relationship, its more of a loose self-induced open-ended union based on the idea of having sex without having to deal with any of the messy emotional deadlifting that would be required in a responsible functioning adult relationship.

This arrangement fits well with her upcoming job interview in New York City which deals more in administration than work in the actual field, which if she accepts it won’t be a problem if she feels the need to cut Homer loose.  Concurrently taking place in NYC is the wedding of her widowed father Jacob (Steven Hill), an event that she is only contemplating since she doesn’t like the new bride-to-be Emma (Beverly Garland).  She attends anyway, and there she meets Emma’s son Ben (Michael Douglas) who as left his baseball career behind due to his injuries.

Ben and Kate become close but she resists because he has a wife and a son back home in Ohio and because she is reluctant to get involved with someone new.  He, meanwhile, doesn’t have doubts because he does this sort of thing all the time.  Still, she pursues the affair because something in his man allows her to see what is missing from her life, a real sense of what a real relationship could be.

The movie has a lot to say about the state of relationships between people who are unhappy in their lives and the screenplay probably plays too much of this in heavy amounts of dialogue where the movie could state its case in subtle passages.  Still, the movie works because it is interested in its characters.  Screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein pairs down the usual Me Generation drama to mostly the woman’s side and that’s refreshing because too often these dramas try to open up multiple subplots and characters that overload the central conflict.  The narrative is cleanly written so that we come to care about these two people and what they both want from each other and for themselves.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized