Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Chapter Two


Neil Simon got his start with lightweight stage plays, then gradually moved into more serious fare, though there were always those trademark Simon one-liners and other sparkling dialogue. The stories were often autobiographical to one degree or another. This one is frankly taken from his own life, and segues from his usual sharp comedy in the first act into much more emotional fare before the curtain. James Caan plays the Simon character, a man who has been devastated, like Simon, by the death of his first wife. He slowly and cautiously begins an affair and then enters into a marriage with Marsha Mason, which is exactly what Simon did. But on the honeymoon he cannot connect with his new wife, and they go through a period of turmoil. She is determined to make it work, no matter how much he behaves like an asshole, and I assume this is pretty much what happened in the real life marriage. Mason made it work for eight years, which is not a bad record considering that Simon has been married five times (twice to the same woman). The first marriage was his longest.

This wasn’t an ideal role for Caan. He looks uncomfortable with the snappy dialogue at first, and even more so when things get serious. Marsha Mason, in my opinion, is just adequate as an actress. In most of her roles, I could easily see half a dozen of her contemporaries doing a better job. Hate to be catty, but you gotta figure being married to Neil Simon was a big boost to her career. A great many of her movies were associated with Simon in one way or another. They are supported well by Valerie Harper and even better by Joseph Bologna as Jimmy’s brother, who gets many of the best lines. But all in all, it’s just a mediocre effort.