"The End of Innocence" is Dyan Cannon fodder -- a me, myself and I production about how hard it is to be a whole person and still get a man. Ostensibly an instructive feminist drama, this self-absorbed little film mainly proves that Cannon still looks good in tights at 54. Her shapely legs are more central to the tale than her brains, but then that's the trouble, isn't it?
Cannon directs herself in her own screenplay, a lumbering visual diary about the indignities of growing up female. And while she has some good points, she doesn't really know how to separate the seeds from the chaff of her narrative, a clutter of dashed dreams, junk food jags, romantic disappointments and career failures. A la Henry Jaglom's "Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?," this is a whiny journey into the auteur's belly button.
The antiheroine's story begins adversely from birth, when her mother asks hopefully, "Is it a boy?" A series of vignettes -- featuring the late Rebecca Schaeffer as 18-year-old Stephanie Lewis -- continues the catalogue of indignities that lead to her stay in a drug rehabilitation center 35 years later. She literally rides a merry-go-round through her life, variously dressed as a waitress, a hippie and a clerk-typist. Then suddenly, the ride slows down, her life's half over and nothing's been achieved.
Addicted to marijuana, pills and approval, the middle-aged Stephanie (Cannon) falls apart when her boyfriend (Stephen Meadows) leaves her for a younger woman. Her irksome parents (George Coe and Lola Mason) commit her to the center, where she finds herself with the help of her fellow patients, a lovable assortment of nuts. Everybody gets better eventually, but Stephanie arrives kicking, screaming and beating her fists against the padded walls. You can just about see the Oscar acceptance speech forming in Cannon's mind.
Cannon, who must have written down this Esalen-era repartee from her own group therapy sessions, has nothing new to say here about addictive behavior, female passivity or the capacity for change. It's like a one-woman visit to "The Valley of the Dolls," a kind of cautionary manual for pubescent girls. It's vain, but modestly so, nothing so catastrophic as Jack Nicholson directing himself in "The Two Jakes." Still it is a nose dive into the cuckoo's nest and it seems that "Innocence" will never end.
The End of Innocence, at the Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle, is rated R for drug use, sensuality and profanity.