LOVING COUPLES -- Aspen Hill, Jenifer, Laurel Cinema, NTI Buckingham, NTI Jefferson, NTI New Carrollton, Roth's Seven Locks, Roth's Tysons Corner, Showcase Fair City and Springfield Mall Cinema.; IT'S MY TURN -- AMC Academy, Aspen Hill, K-B Cerberus, Laurel Cinema, Loehmann's Plaza, Marlow, NTI Tysons Corner Roth's Seven Locks, Springfield Mall and Tenley Circle.
In "Loving Couples," Shirley MacLane plays a successful doctor, married to a surgeon who loves her, and living in a luxurious, perfectly run household. In "It's My Turn," Jill Clayburgh plays a successful mathematician, living with a developer who loves her, in a chic, immaculate loft apartment.
It would seem that middle-aged film actresses' complaint about the lack of intelligent and suitable roles, a lament thoroughly aired in recent years on the publicity interview circuit, might be solved. But a problem remains: If a woman is at the top of her profession and has an attractive and supportive man and an even more attractive, self-running household, what is the story conflict to be?
One might try adding children to these menages, or ethical or professional alternatives. But these films are billed as "romatic comedies," so what is needed is something on the personal level, preferably sexy.
The solution to finding a problem is the same in both pictures. The supportive man is seen as not being supportive enough. What is needed, instead, is a young twit who makes love at odd hours and takes an active interest in the heroine's wardrobe. Such activities are labeled "connecting" or "communicating"; their ommission is called "You don't hear me" or "We never talk."
James Coburn, in "Loving Couples," is a man who puts aside writing a speech that's important to him because his wife demands that he take her out to dinner, but who treats her work requirements with respect. She prefers the twit, a real-estate salesman played by Stephen Collins, because he's willing to dance all night and goes to boutiques with her, where he encourages her to purchase tarty outfits.
Charles Grodin, in "It's My Turn," is a man who listens at length to his lover's vacillations about her career, and remains good-natured when she interrupts his work with irrelevant chatter, even when it's a business deal he is discussing with someone else on the telephone. She prefers the twit, a benched baseball star played by Michael Douglas, because he takes her to her first baseball game and critiques her clothes.
Superficially, these films might seem to be the female equivalent of such pictures as "10" and "Middle Aged Crazy," in which men who are rich, successful and beloved begin to feel, at mid-life, that they deserve something more, and young sex is the only thing more they can think of.
But this is not quite it, in these mid-life female pictures. The rejected husband of Loving Couples," whose crimes are that he truly loves his work and that he keeps an orderly engagement book, finds that he has to exhibit more of a sense of crazy fun, if he wants to deserve a superwoman. The rejected lover of "It's My Turn," whose crime is that he doesn't want "to live through every moment of another person's life, even yours," as he admits to his beloved, is given an ultimatum to stop joking and exhibit more seriousness if he is to deserve a super-woman.
Loving Couples" was written and directed by men, Martin Donovn and Jack Smight, and "It's My Turn" by women, Eleanor Bergstein and Claudia Weill. But for all their sleek, modernistic trappings, they suggest that tiresome, anti-feminist question, "What do they want?"
It's true that they depict middle-aged women in responsible positions -- but only to make the supposedly comic statement that inside everyone there's a young bimbo dying to get out. Roles, yes, but not intelligent ones.