HEAD OVER HEELS -- Roth's Randolph, Roth's Tysons Corner and West End Circle.
It would be hard to imagine a pair of lovers prettier than John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt in "Head Over Heels" -- or drippier. At one point, he appeals to her in the name of all the fun they used to have, and she looks understandably puzzled. Fun? What fun?
We get to see the entire courtship in the Joan Micklin Silver film of Ann Beattie's novel "Chilly Scenes of Winter," and, for something billed as a "contemporary romantic comedy," it certainly is depressing. A young man who leads a boring life fixes on a young married woman at his office, rather the way a duck is supposed to assume that the first thing it sees when opening its eyes is its mother. The object of this outpouring tries him out for a while, as she is considering what to do with a nice husband she doesn't much like, but she becomes increasingly annoyed at his pestering attentions.
In a way, it represents the 1970s' belief in love as a collection of conflicting "emotinal demands." Faced with competion from a husband who is by all accounts kind and tolerant, the hero explains glibly that being easy to get along with probably means that "he doesn't care." The heroine, instead of telling her unwelcome suitior to buzz off, announces that she rejects his love because she is "not worthy" of it.
In a sub-plot involving Gloria Grahame as the lover's alcoholic mother, her long-suffering husband is protrayed as a man who has the nearest thing to happiness they can all imagine, because "he has someone to take care of." But there is someone even weirder in this family -- the boy's sister. "Susan always appears to be happy and normal -- she must know something," he muses.
Whatever she knows, it must be strange. In this world a person who is normal must be crazy.
If the film were a bit more smoothly done instead of jumping about in technique and time, it might come to realize its potential as a comedy when we are far enough away from its psychological attitudes to laugh at them. "Splendor in the Grass," the 1961 picture that conveyed the idea that sexual repression was the cause of all yourthful unhappiness, is rather dear and funny now.