NEVER AGAIN (director/writer: Eric Schaeffer; cinematographer: Thomas Ostrowski; editor: Mitchel Stanley; music: Amanda Kravat/Julius Robinson; cast: Jeffrey Tambor (Christopher), Jill Clayburgh (Grace), Caroline Aaron (Elaine), Bill Duke (Earl), Sandy Duncan (Natasha), Michael McKean (Alex), Suzanne Shepherd (Christopher’s Mother), Lily Rabe (Tess), David Bailey (Chad), Peter Dinklage (Harry Appleton), Eric Axen (College Girl-Boy), Dan’l Linehan (Leather Go-Go Boy); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert Kravitz; USA Films; 2001)
“As shameless a love story as anything that Hollywood has ever done.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Never Again is indie filmmaker Eric Schaeffer’s (“Wirey Spindell“/”Fall“/”If Lucy Fell“) inexpedient project. It stars Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Clayburgh, who are on a continual rant of speaking dirty. They are lovers in their 50s and are not afraid of confronting their sexual needs. One would think, at last, a rare romance film for the mature set. Unfortunately, what we get is an immature romantic/comedy. It is bold only because it was so perverse. Other than these nods toward pushing the envelope away from mainstream films, “Never Again” is as shameless a love story as anything that Hollywood has ever done. It’s closest to an Erich Segal Love Story.
Even the film’s title “Never Again” could be considered crass. It could be construed as a trifling of the Jewish credo after the Holocaust, even though the film was devoid of any political content or, for that matter, anything that had gravitas. In the film’s case, the title refers to a Talking Point made by one of the lovers and agreed to by the other. He is the balding, grubby looking, paunchy, grouchy, 54-year-old, divorced, exterminator/jazz pianist, Christopher (Jeffrey Tambor). His love interest is Grace (Jill Clayburgh), who is of the same age and is also divorced. She works as a field executive for a mentor group, like Big Brother or Big Sister. On the Talking Point of “never again,” she agrees — that they never intend to fall in love again or even talk about it.
Both Grace and Chris are without a partner and both with a grown child who does not live at home. She seems traumatized that her daughter Tess is off to an out-of-town college leaving her alone, while he’s grown used to being alone. His married thirtysomething son raises cows in Montana.
Christopher after years of one-night stands becomes impotent with his last date, a 25-year-old blonde who tells him not to worry about his failure — he must be bisexual. That night he has a dream that he got aroused by a man as a lover. He tells his best and only friend, his jazz musician colleague he plays with in the Village, Earl (Bill Duke), that he would like to explore a change in his sexual orientation and experience a man. Answering a sex magazine ad, he has an unsuccessful encounter with a transvestite (McKean). Meanwhile Grace’s two yenta friends, Elaine (Aaron) and Natasha (Duncan), go on the Internet to get the lady who has been divorced for ten years and hasn’t slept with a man for the last seven years a date with a younger man. When they meet in a bar, she’s disappointed that he’s a midget (Dinklage).
Grace unwinds from that bad date and turns up in the same gay bar as Christopher. After they chat and clear up that they are both straight — she tries to make up for lost sexual time by using him to experiment with new sexual techniques. While this is happening he falls in love and is so frightened, that he tries to pull out of the relationship. Their crucial discussion over love matters comes later in the same gay bar, as she gets out of control and starts shouting obscenities at him. So much for age translating to maturity.
The film asks the heart-stopping question — Is their “never again” credo a self-fulfilling prophecy? My problem was I could care less.
REVIEWED ON 8/30/2002 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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