Jill Clayburgh has certainly had her troubles when it comes to the un-fair sex. First she's dumped by the unmarried man, next she's forced to start over with Burt Reynolds, and then in "Luna," she mixes it up with her own son, a heroin addict. Is it any wonder this woman was beginning look dragged out, droopy, like she couldn't find a good hairdresser?
Well, just when it was beginning to seem as if Shelley Winters was her role model for life, Clayburgh landed a plucky part in "First Monday in October." She's still got man trouble, mind you, but she has some nice suits and the fellas are of a higher order.
Her latest scrape with the male establishment is justifiable. It's downright upright. Vowing that women can ovulate and think at the same time, Clayburgh dons the judgmental robes of arch-conservative judge Ruth Loomis, whom the president appoints to the Supreme Court. Prescient playwrights Robert E. Lee and Jerome Lawrence penned the character for stage, and later screen, years before Ronald Reagan appointed western conservative Sandra Day O'Connor to the high court.
Unlike O'Connor, Clayburgh makes a reluctant conservative. A liberal in her heart, she lacks the power of her convictions in this part. Had she been playing opposite Alan Alda, this might have gone unnoticed, two smoothies toe dancing through the halls of justice. But the costar with whom Clayburgh must contend is lusty, wisecracking Walter Matthau as liberal Dan Snow, the Bad News Bear come to court. Just as Snow, the jousting justice with two left wings, looms over Loomis, "the mother superior of Orange County," Matthau overpowers Clayburgh. It's inequitable, sometimes even discriminatory.
After learning that she objects to his pro-pornographer bias in a first amendment test case, Snow addresses Loomis as Madame Just-ess. She objects to his chauvinism and to the fact that he has not viewed the pornography in question. All this leads to mutual respect."We make each other possible, Dan," says Justice Loomis, her eyes wide, her heart full to bursting with national pride.
The Thomas Jefferson High School Band strikes up John Philip Sousa's "Washington Post March," and departing viewers are expected to pat themselves on their all-American backs. It's all a bit pompous and high blown, but not worth missing a good, old-fashioned, flag-waving film over.
FIRST MONDAY IN OCTOBER -- At the AMC Skyline, Beltway Plaza, K-B Fine Arts, NTI White Flint, Roth's Tysons Corner, Roth's Silver Spring West, Springfield Mall, Tenley Circle and Towncenter Laurel.