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‘A New Life’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 25, 1988


Alan Alda
Alan Alda;
Hal Linden;
Veronica Hamel;
John Shea;
Mary Kay Place;
Beatrice Alda
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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There's nothing tricky to Alan Alda: no Eddie Murphy worship-me complex, no Woody Allen navel-contemplating, no Steve Martin I'm-brilliant-watch-me-dance routines. He's just a witty Mr. Nice Guy, all positive reinforcement and sincerity.

In "A New Life," which he wrote and directed and stars in, for a change Alda doesn't play a self-righteous lib a` le Martin Sheen, which is refreshing. And though "New Life's" premise -- the tribulations of a male divorce' -- is hardly groundbreaking, its safe confines provide Alda ample room for his engaging brand of sitcom repartee.

He's Steve Giardino -- unrecognizable in gray hair and beard -- an overworked Wall Street runner who lives for the market, and for gambling, cigars and ice cream laced with cayenne pepper. His wife Jackie (Ann-Margret) got lost somewhere in the Type-A rush and has promptly divorced him. Thus, two not-ready-for-dating-time adults must return to the singles world.

Nothing (as far as real-life family man Alda is concerned) could be worse. So Steve must brave coke-snorters, con artists and call girls, aided by the ably superficial Hal Linden as svengali-like Mel. Meanwhile Jackie (whose entire existence is parenthetical in this movie) takes up with a young avant-garde sculptor who'd like not to put her on the mythical pedestal as much as remold her as the pedestal.

Ex-lovers Steve and Jackie seem destined to fall back together until Steve has a nervous collapse, for which his chest must be stethoscoped by attractive doctor Kay Hutton (Veronica Hamel). Before you can say "heart murmur," they're in the operating room, so to speak.

Steve has passed the singles physical. Now it's time to try the married version, full of all those b-words -- birthing, breathing, bonding. How he fares is hardly nail-biting fare, but it leaves you with a favorable impression of Alda -- even if his openly bleeding heart has made you cringe in the past.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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