The Morning After (1986)

*. I wonder what they were thinking. The set-up sounds like a psychological thriller, but it plays like a screwball comedy. On the DVD commentary director Sidney Lumet repeatedly refers to it as a melodrama, which is a word I wouldn’t have thought of. But then, as I understand him, he means melodrama refers to a movie that is story-(as opposed to character-)driven and suspenseful. Which is broad enough to include this film.
*. Another word Lumet uses on the commentary track that I had trouble with comes when he calls Alex (Jane Fonda) a “failed” actress. This seems harsh. Her salad days are clearly behind her, and since she can’t get any work she’s taken to drink, but she had a career and she’s still remembered by some people. She’s not a failure but someone whose career is over, as are the careers of most actors when they hit middle age.
*. I couldn’t get into this one at all. It starts off with a strained premise, introducing what might be a distaff version of In a Lonely Place, but then seems to immediately lose interest in the murder mystery (which is no mystery at all) as it tries to turn itself into a romantic comedy. Or something. Neither plot makes any sense at all, and Los Angeles is presented as a kind of empty pastel wonderland, eschewing Californian noir for something that looks more like Miami. Fair enough — Los Angeles struck me the same way the one time I visited — but it’s weird.
*. I won’t bother pulling the script apart for all its improbabilities. The big problems became so much I started wondering about little things like why Alex would have six bottles of mayonnaise in her fridge. Are they all open? Why?
*. What hurts even more is that the ludicrous script is both far-fetched and obvious at the same time. A movie like this really needs a twist or two to keep us guessing. Raul Julia is great, as always, but is there anyone who has seen this movie who doesn’t know right from the first time he appears on screen that he’s the one behind everything? I mean, I still can’t imagine how he managed to pull it all off, but it’s clear that he’s responsible.
*. Bridges is cute, as always. Fonda got a lot of praise, and an Oscar nomination, for her performance but the most I can say for it is that she was brave. She was pushing 50 and she wasn’t afraid of playing an obviously older woman trying to keep up appearances. Though her body does look amazing and she flashes some amazing legs. Making all those exercise videos worked for her. Plus she may have had a body double in some scenes.
*. Not a movie I could recommend to anyone, though given the talent involved it’s not the complete disaster that it seems headed for being. In any event, it’s mostly forgotten today, which seems right.

2 thoughts on “The Morning After (1986)

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