According to Robert Kaufman, who may or may not have been making excuses, his script for "Nothing Personal" gathered dust for eight years before Suzanne Somers plucked it from obscurity. Seeking a transitional role from coy Chrissie on "Three's Company," Somers evidently imagined herself becoming a favorite of movie audiences as the heroine of Kaufman's farce -- a smugly oversexed Washington lawyer named Abigail Adams who helps a shy academician, played by Donald Sutherland, prevent the Air Force and a big, bad conglomerate from wantonly murdering little baby seals to facilitate construction of a new base.
Kaufman recalls Somers praising Abigail as "the first real woman of the '80s." For his sake, her sake and all our sakes, let's hope that she's absolutely mistaken.
Abigail is the sort of unappetizing cupcake who rattles off legal precedents in one breath and then informs her client that she's wearing no underpants in the next. "This is embarrassing, embarrassing," she coos in facetious self-justification. "I am not dependent, but I am vulnerable." When a puzzled Sutherland asks what that is supposed to mean, Somers replies, "It means I just got horny sitting next to you."
Their agonizing proximity begins when Prof. Sutherland finds it necessary to consult a Washington law firm in his campaign to protect the seals' breeding grounds in Alaska. Somers rushes him in the corridor and soon they're trading denunciations of unfeeling Pentagon officers and corporate executives in public and adorable pillow talk in private. Walking into Somers' bedroom in a typically cute encounter, Sutherland finds her smirking beneath the covers. "I tied my ankles together with string in case a rapist should come in and surprise me," she announces.
"Is that supposed to be effective?" Sutherland asks.
"Unless he turns me over," she chortles.
When Sutherland shortly launches into another lament about the difficulty of Doing Good in the world because the people in power are "too glib, too amoral," you get a powerful urge to rip this relentlessly glib, amoral picture right out of the projector. Nothing personal, of course, but "Nothing Personal" exemplifies the Hollywood mentality at its most presumptuously low-brow. We're expected to pay respectful attention while the characters parade virtuously progressive social opinions and then drool with anticipation when they make smutty pattycake.
On the big screen, Somers resembles a homely, platinum-haired Barbra Streisand. The miniature television image must flatter her, because Somers' face appears gargantuan and unappealing in "Nothing Personal." She confronts you with a huge nose, jaw and teeth, and the lighting doesn't soften or streamline these oversized irregularities. It simply bathes them in gauzy whiteness. Behold the abominable snowbunny!
The only thing that could save "Nothing Personal" would be Somers romping in the nude. Since she chooses to remain demurely covered up while incessantly coming on, customers are likely to get the idea that they're dealing with a tiresome tease.
George Bloomfield, the director of "Nothing Personal," betrays no style or discretion, but there's no reason to believe such qualities would have been in demand for this material. Bloomfield succeeds only in imposing listlessness on a fundamentally vulgar story.
Presumably, Donald Sutherland was attracted to this ignominious project by the chance to Say Something about Vital Humanitarian Issues. But he's a limp defender of righteousness, and I haven't disliked him as intensely since "Steelyard Blues," which affected a similar facetious tone.
Overcompensating, I developed a perverse affection for Lawrence Dane and Dabney Coleman as the corporate baddies. The quality of the roles aside, their teamwork certainly puts the stars to shame.