Only When I Laugh
Marsha Mason, Kristy McNichol, James Coco, Joan Hackett and Kevin Bacon
9.5 out of 10 / A+
REGION CODE: 0
Region All / Free DVD-R (playable worldwide)
Playwright Neil Simon made one of his periodic forays into serious themes with the drama The Gingerbread Lady, and while this screen adaptation adds a bit more wit to the proceedings, it remains a change of pace from his usual breezy comedies. Georgia (Marsha Mason) is a successful actress who has just spent 90 days in a rehab clinic in an effort to beat her addiction to alcohol. A number of crises are waiting for Georgia upon her return; her teenage daughter Polly (Kristy McNichol), whom she neglected as a child, wants to move back in, though they still have a ways to go in repairing their relationship. And her ex-husband David (David Dukes), a writer, has just penned a new drama that he wants her to star in - a fictionalized version of their often-combative marriage. Georgia also has to tend to her best friends, bitter socialite Toby (Joan Hackett) and Jimmy (James Coco), a gay actor who drowns his sorrows in food.
Marsha Mason's performance of a lifetime - snubbed by the academy. This was by far her best performance since The Goodbye Girl. This film was not your ordinary Neil Simon flick. A tour-de-force with all the elements: tears, laughter, and each character going through their own separate turmoil. James Coco is great as the gay wannabe actor/best friend. Joan Hackett is brilliant as Toby Landau, the aging Park Avenue beauty, who dreads growing old. Ms. Hackett won a Golden Globe for her performance in this film. Oscar nominations for Mason, Hackett, and Coco. Kristy McNichol is superb as well and rightly should have been Oscar nominated in support. Once again Ms. Mason shows how adept she is at playing mothers - the relationship she establishes with Ms. McNichol is wonderful to behold. Oddly enough, in this film it is the mother who is more the child and the daughter who is parentified. All in all, an absorbing and satisfying film about people you come to care for - one of Mr. Simon's best and Ms. Mason's pinnacle.