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SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR (director: Robert Mulligan; screenwriter: Bernard Slade/based on the stage play by Mr. Slade; cinematographer: Robert Surtees; editor: Sheldon Kahn; music: Marvin Hamlisch; cast: Ellen Burstyn (Doris), Alan Alda (George Peters), Ivan Bonar (Chalmers), Bernie Kuby (Waiter ), Cosmo Sardo (Second Waiter), David Northcutt (Pilot 1), William Cantrel (Pilot 2); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Walter Mirisch/Morton Gottlieb; Universal Studios; 1978)
“What worked on the stage doesn’t on film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Mulligan’s (“Bloodbrothers”) old-fashioned romantic comedy about a successful adulterous affair was adapted for film from a two-character Broadway play by Bernard Slade, who also does the screenplay. It’s about a couple with “six children between them” but not married to each other, who fall in love at first sight when they meet accidentally at California’s Sea Shadows Inn in 1951. George (Alan Alda) is a 27-year-old married New Jersey CPA and Doris (Ellen Burstyn) is a 24-year-old California housewife, who married at 18. They hit it off so well the first time, that they decide to secretly meet in the same inn every year at the same time. The illicit affair spans around 26 years, as we witness every five years or so how they grow into middle-age (witnessing a birth, some deaths (George’s son is killed in Vietnam), lots of guilt and growing ideological differences due to the Vietnam War) and how the landscape of America drastically changes. The neurotic George evolves into a stodgy know-it-all businessman, while the demure Doris changes to look like a hippie and then into a successful power-hungry businesswoman. Despite their differences and their changing personal beliefs, they seem to get along better with each other than with their spouses.

We learn that George comes to the Monterey Peninsula inn to do the books of his wine merchant friend, his first client; while Doris takes a room at the inn so her hubby can take the three kids to visit his mother in Bakersfield. Doris is not welcome because the mother-in-law still resents her for getting pregnant and causing her son to quit dental school and then get a job in TV sales.

What worked on the stage doesn’t on film, as the action is stagebound and the slight premise leaves it stagnating as a one-set play. I failed to see the humor in the flat dialogue or wasn’t as enamored by the characters as much as they were by each other. The performances showoff the versatility of the performers, who make the most of the film’s limits and make the film pleasing but can’t make it substantial. Makeup maven Bill Tuttle does a first-class job showing the couple aging.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2005 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”