New cinematic freedoms in the ’60s and ’70s emboldened pandering producers to adapt trashy bestselling novels for the screen, resulting in a series of godawful epics based on pulpy books by the likes of Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, and Jacqueline Susann. A typical example of the breed is the Susann adaptation Once Is Not Enough, an overwrought melodrama about a beautiful young woman tormented by a daddy complex.
Deborah Raffin stars as January, the teenaged daughter of a macho movie producer named Mike Wayne (Kirk Douglas). When the story opens, January is completing her lengthy recovery from a bad motorcycle accident, so when she finally returns home from the hospital, she discovers that Mike’s career has hit the skids, and that he recently married the super-rich Deidre Granger (Alexis Smith) in order to provide for January.
This discovery sends January into an emotional tailspin—and eventually into the arms of Tom Colt (David Janssen), an alcoholic novelist who becomes a sexual surrogate for dear old Daddy. The sleazy storyline also includes Deidre’s lothario cousin (George Hamilton); Diedre’s secret lesbian lover (Melina Mercouri); and January’s promiscuous best friend (Brenda Vaccaro). These self-involved and/or self-loathing characters fight, scheme, and screw in an endless cycle until enough of them are either dead or neutralized to arrive at an arbitrary conclusion.
Once Is Not Enough lacks any tangible relation to the real world, just like it lacks any sense of higher purpose, so the movie’s supposed entertainment value involves reveling in sleaze. The storyline of he-man Douglas emasculating himself by marrying for money offers some amusement, but it’s difficult to enjoy the principal narrative about January, which careers between her pseudo-incestuous preoccupation with her father and her odious sexual involvement with Tom, who’s forty years her senior.
The screenplay, by Casablanca co-writer Julius J. Epstein, has a few zippy dialogue exchanges, but relies too much on Susann’s patois of contrived world-weariness. Similarly, the performances are erratic: Raffin is terrible (flat line readings, unconvincing emotional shifts), Douglas is okay (hammy but intense), and Vaccaro is great (bitchy, fragile, funny). A handful of worthwhile elements, however, are insufficient to justify the picture’s deadly 121-minute running time, so a more appropriate title would be Once Is More Than Enough.
Once Is Not Enough: LAME