- Movie Rating -

Twice in a Lifetime (1985)

| October 21, 1985

Twice in a Lifetime is a movie that walks a very tricky minefield of potential cliches and overwrought melodrama.  Here is the story of a man who is approaching 50s, has a loving wife and family, but feels that he needs a restart and decided to live his wife for a local barmaid.  This has the potential to make a season-arch for “Dynasty” but it is handled with care by Chariots of Fire screenwriter Colin Welland and director Bud Yorkin.

For one thing, the movie is about the people, not about the manipulations of a plot.  Harry McKenzie is a very specific man and we can see the weariness in his eyes.  At a local bar, he meets a beautiful barmaid named Audrey and they begin talking, then flirting and very slowly begin to fall for one another.  The fact that Audrey is played by Anne-Margaret helps us understand what he sees in her.

Harry eventually leaves his wife for Audrey and moves in with her which naturally causes an earthquake in the inner-circle of his family with many aftershocks.  At the epicenter is his wife Kate (Ellen Burstyn) who is devastated, his oldest daughter Sunny (Amy Madigan) and his younger daughter Helen who is about to be married.  What is interesting about the players in this story is that each has a life of their own, each has an opinion on this, each is a fully developed character and their point of view is valued.  Most up-front is Sunny whose anger is appropriate, upfront and real.  Madigan plays her not as a bundle of screaming heartbreak but as a person whose entire family is coming apart.  It’s a terrific performance.

Where the movie falters a bit, I think, is in the justification.  The relationship between Hackman and Burstyn is not set up very well in order for us to see the clear reasons why he would want to leave her.  We can feel their history together but there never seems to be enough justification for him to want to leave.  This is a scenario that I think worked much better in Woody Allen’s Interiors where E.G. Marshall was leaving wife Geraldine Page because he was simply a selfish man.  We don’t sense that from the Hackman character.  We feel a loving man but we never feel a reason for him to leave Burstyn.

Still, this is a very good movie with some very good performances.  I think the ending is a little too neat but I wouldn’t send anyone away from it.  My problems with the film are just my problems.  Your experience may vary.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama