Synopsis: Adam Evans (Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins) is a middle-aged college professor having a torrid affair with a beautiful young coed (luscious Bo Derek, whose slow-motion hot tub romp with Hopkins remains one of the most erotic scenes of the decade). In retaliation, his wife Karyn (Oscar®-winner Shirley MacLaine) begins sleeping with a sexy young carpenter (Michael Brandon). But when Adam, Karyn and their respective lovers decide to vacation together in their country home, their four-way romantic getaway will test the limits of love, jealousy, family and freedom.
Mary Beth Hurt (The World According To Garp) co-stars in this offbeat romantic comedy/drama co-written by Erich Segal, the Oscar®-nominated writer of Love Story.
A Change of Seasons 6.75
Honestly, I knew very little about ‘A Change of Seasons’ going in. I only knew about the hot hot tub sequence from reading the back of the DVD. It appealed to me for obvious reasons, but not enough so for me to pick it up the many times I saw it in the discount bin at the local Zellers.
And since I’m now going through a series of sexy movies, or films revolving around sex in one fashion or another, I decided that it was time. The fact that we are experiencing an actual change of seasons today was another incentive for moving ahead and finally finding out what this picture is all about.
Essentially, ‘A Change of Seasons’ could be considered a cautionary tale for middle-aged men who remorselessly feel the need to stray out of their relationships, who believe that they can do this without any repercussions. It not only shows us the irreversible impact on one man’s family, but it sympathizes with the spouse completely, unhesitantly. And rightly so.
The problem is that the picture is off, tonally. The trailer suggests a comedy à la early-mid ’60s, but the film stumbles back and forth between tepid drama and limp humour. Personally, I found it far too uneven to ever laugh when there was any humour; whenever there are any jokes or subtle jabs, it’s so weak that it feels totally out of place.
And it’s too bad, because it could have made for a good dramedy combo. This is the kind of material that perhaps Blake Edwards or Neil Simon would have excelled at when they were at their peak. Lord knows that these filmmakers had their hearts in the right place, but Director Richard Lang and the many writers (one of whom is the writer of the classic ‘Love Story’) simply couldn’t serve up a cohesive whole.
It is said that Anthony Hopkins and Shirley MacLaine did not get along at all. Obviously, it makes sense that this may have affected their on-screen dynamic. However, nothing can justify Mary Beth Hurt’s bull-in-a-china-shop turn – she pretty much crashes through every scene and carelessly lobs her lines at the screen. The moment that she appears, I wondered who this dingbat was. It was not a good first impression.
Still, even Anthony Hopkins is pretty bad here; he was actually nominated for a Razzie for ‘A Change in Seasons! If he didn’t have the reputation that he has now, if I had seen this movie at the time of its release, I would have written this guy off at first glance, thinking that he was one of many shoddy actors who inexplicably got a big screen break, failed miserably and would soon be forgotten and relegated to the small screen – if he were lucky. He’s that gawdawful in ‘A Change of Seasons’.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that his character is a total bastard. He’s a stereotype of the entitled male who feels it’s okay for men to dally about, but not women. He also believes that men and women have different feelings and needs – or, at least, it’s his way of justifying his actions. He’s not an honest person, either: not only does he cheat on his spouse, but he can’t speak the truth to her, or even to himself, most of the time.
…so you had two reasons to dislike Hopkins’ on-screen presence: his performance and his character!
Meanwhile, Shirley MacLaine is terrific. Aside from the forced levity between her and her lover, played with nonchalance by Michael Brandon, she was the sole shining moment in the picture. Mind you, I’m probably biased by the fact that I loved her character’s attitude: she took this betrayal as a moment of freedom – after the initial impact of discovering her husband’s infidelity, of course. Her own dalliance never appeared to be about revenge; it was about wishful-fulfilment, as though she had long sought the arms and company of a lover but had restrained herself until now. I doubt I would be as “zen” in the same situation, but I nonetheless loved how she handled it.
As for the hot tub scene (the main draw of this picture, really), well, funnily enough it’s at the very beginning, during the opening credits. And yes, it’s pretty sexy – but it’s mostly due to Bo Derek, who was quite fetching at the time. I suppose that she was the equivalent of Megan Fox at the time – a sex symbol, who has very little credibility as an actor and whose career was a mere blip on the radar (Oddly, Derek was nominated for a Golden Globe for her effortless turn in ’10’. Unsurprisingly, though, she also later won a Razzie for ‘Tarzan, the Ape Man’ ).
Anyway, I don’t know if it was intentional, but the film pretty much shot its load right at the start, leaving me wanting the rest of the time. Seriously, how can you start a movie with a pulse-quickening sequence and then not give the audience another equally hot moment later on? Or two, even! It sort of makes sense, in a dramedy, in a picture that’s dialogue and character-driven, but it’s nonetheless disappointing. Having said this, perhaps this wouldn’t have mattered as much if the script had been stronger, or if the cast had owned the screen.
Well, the bottom line is that ‘A Changes of Seasons’ is only worth it for the opening sequence and for MacLaine’s turn in it.
Having said this, MacLaine has been terrific in many far superior films (‘The Apartment’, ‘Being There’, and ‘Terms of Endearment’, to name a few). So is this one worth checking out? I don’t know… I don’t regret seeing it, and I may see it again with adjusted expectation, but it’s certainly not a must-see. At best, I’d say ‘A Change of Seasons’ is worth it for completists and the curious. Or to kill a boring Sunday afternoon. That’s about it.