Same Time, Next Year

Same Time, Next Year


Reviewed by: Ben Sillis

It starts off bad and only gets worse. Cheesy music - the sort of tune the music editor for Cheers had to scrap for being just too gosh-darn wholesome - plays as a couple cosy up in front of the hearth at a secluded hotel, enjoying the kind of laughter you only get in bad films. You know, the type where they throw their heads back before chuckling uproariously. Who does that?

The music desecrating your ears eventually subsides and we cut to the morning after. Just as you breathe a sigh of relief, Same Time Next Year hits you with another blow. The pair start talking.

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"Doris, we're in big trouble. I think I love you" declares George (Alan Alda). This man's whole essence will grate through the enitre film. His whiney, east coast accent, his gangly gesticulations, his badly characterised male bumbling and idiocy. Doris (Ellen Burstyn) meanwhile is no more compelling. Her character, bland, midwestern, stoical, with an ordinary haircut, might have been interesting were it not for the fact that she's not.

Cue lots of debating about what they're going to do (Both are married with children) in dead, theatrical dialogue, until they hit upon the lovely and definitely not morally ambiguous solution of meeting up in the same place every year to cuckold their spouses.

Excerpts from later trysts follow: George nearly spoils their dirty weekend by leaving early to check on his child, whose first tooth has fallen out. Doris turns up with a bun in the proverbial oven despite being well past the menopause, and the whole jealousy issue comes to a head. And just to torment the poor viewer even more, the horrible music and montages spring up between scenes.

The main problem with Same Time - aside from the cast, the screenplay, the directing, the editing, the cast, the music, the set design, the screenplay, the cast and the people who financed it - is that there's absolutely no emotional investment in the couple. We hate them and what they're doing from the word go because neither is entertaining or likeable. Even when George's son dies in 'Nam, in some sort of comment on Sixties radicalism, there's little sympathy for him when he says he wants to nuke an entire country or two in reponse.

Somewhere in this trauma of a stage adaptation are some valid points about Fifties US conservatism: everyone feels trapped in their allotted roles, or something, but if you wanted to watch a film about that, Far From Heaven is infinitely better. And maybe when this was first written, talking about things like masturbation and impotency was shocking and new, but that's not a reason to watch it now. Perhaps an attempt to be mature about sex lives at the time, it's about as grown up now as American Pie 8: Dildo Factory.

It's incredibly rare for stage adaptations with a small cast to work on film (American Buffalo?) - cinema needn't be restricted to one room after all. Why then, anyone thought that an adaptation of a bad stage play would work is beyond me. If you want a moving, heart warming tour through 20th century American history seen through the eyes of an individual, just watch Forrest Gump instead. At least you do know what you're going to get with that.

Reviewed on: 11 Feb 2008
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Same Time, Next Year packshot
Film adaptation of a stage play about a pair who have a one-night stand, despite being married to other people, and who make a pact to meet on the same night each year.
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Director: Robert Mulligan

Writer: Bernard Slade, based on his play

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Alan Alda, Ivan Bonar, Bernie Kuby, Cosmo Sardo, David Northcutt, William Cantrell

Year: 1978

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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If you like this, try:

Far From Heaven