Saturday 1 December 2018

Movie Review: Author! Author! (1982)

A mild drama, comedy and romance, Author! Author! delves into one man's work and family issues but finds little of interest.

In New York City, Ivan Travalian (Al Pacino) is a respected playwright and loving father of five kids, preparing for the upcoming Broadway debut of his new show. With his producer fretting about costs and a second act that does not work, Ivan has to fire the director and find a new leading lady. On the home front, Ivan's life falls apart when his wife Gloria (Tuesday Weld) admits to having an affair and departs, leaving Ivan in charge of four of her kids from previous marriages plus one boy of his own.

Ivan convinces glamorous movie star Alice Detroit (Dyan Cannon) to join the play, and they are soon romantically involved. She moves in with him but does not enjoy his life of domesticity. Gloria's kids are shuttled off to their respective fathers, but more unexpected complications are lurking to further strain Ivan's personal life.

Written by Israel Horovitz and directed by Arthur Hiller, Author! Author! is a mundane nonentity that awkwardly sniffs around a couple of topics and departs with no impact. While Ivan's life contains nuggets of potential interest, Horovitz genuinely seems to have nothing to say, and neither the putting-on-a-play nor the family-in-turmoil parts of the story appear to head in any specific direction.

Ivan is a loving father doing his best in a modern family full of kids assembled from previous and current marriages. But as a sorry indication of the film's shiftless non-presence this part of Ivan's life somehow ends up on a rooftop with back and forth hollering to the street below featuring incompetent cops and one of the kids' other fathers.

Back at rehearsals, Ivan cannot get the second act of his play to work, and after plenty of toil Horovitz and Hiller decide to just abandon that particular subplot in favour of stock sentimentality.  Meanwhile, the two women are provided with no context other than their interactions with Ivan, Gloria and Alice barely defined beyond plastic plot devices.

The film may have worked better as an intriguing character study with a better central performance, but Al Pacino cruises with a singularly lackadaisical attitude, never shifting away from harried-but-still-cool guy.

Author! Author! ends with the manufactured excitement of a Broadway opening night, but the film barely deserves to make it past the first draft.

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