Wednesday, January 13, 2016

1980 Week: It's My Turn

          One of the quintessential leading ladies of the ’70s, Jill Clayburgh, fell out of fashion almost as quickly as she achieved star status. Yet over the span of several character-driven films, including this slight romantic comedy, Clayburgh built an important body of work that reflects many of the key issues driving the early women’s movement. The characters Clayburgh portrayed were confused, multidimensional, powerful, and sexy, demanding an equal share of life’s bounty even as they navigated the myriad ways in which changes to traditional gender roles complicated their relationships with men. So even though It’s My Turn is plainly inferior to Starting Over (1978) and An Unmarried Woman (1979), the films are all of a piece.
          Penned by first-time screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, who later achieved a major success with Dirty Dancing (1987), It’s My Turn opens in Chicago, where Kate (Clayburgh) is a mathematics professor at a prestigious university. She lives with Homer (Charles Grodin), who shuns real emotional commitment because he’s still recovering from a divorce. Therefore, when Kate travels to New York for the second wedding of her father, kindly widower Jacob (Steven Hill), Kate is susceptible to the charms of Ben (Michael Douglas), one of the sons of Jacob's fiancée. A former professional baseball player whose career ended because of an injury, Ben is dashing and handsome and self-deprecating. Alas, he's also married. Nonetheless, Kate dives headlong into a whirlwind romance during the weekend of her father’s wedding, soon deciding that she wants to leave Homer for Ben. Naturally, Ben has something to say about this, hence the slender drama that ensues.
           Long on character and short on story, Bergstein’s intelligent script features dialogue vibrates with the narcissism and neuroticism of the Me Decade: “I really don’t want to live through every moment of another person’s life,” Homer whines at one point. More damningly, much of the film is bereft of genuine dramatic conflict, so things just sort of happen without recognizable consequences. There’s a reason why director Claudia Weill, who earned critical raves for her independently made first feature, Girlfriends (1978), transitioned to helming TV shows after making this, her only studio picture. On the plus side, It’s My Turn showcases Clayburgh and Douglas at the apex of their charisma, and the supporting cast (which also includes Beverly Garland, Charles Kimbrough, Daniel Stern, and Dianne Wiest) is excellent. It’s My Turn may be little more than a cinematic snack, but it has a pleasant flavor.

It’s My Turn: FUNKY


greg6363 said...

Clayburgh's tenure as an A-list star lasted from 1976-1982. She made one too many lady in angst movies ("I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can") before her star power faded in the mid-80's. It was sad to see her ailing condition in "Bridesmaids". An under-appreciated actress.

Douglas said...

I would say the movie Luna represented a downturn in her career.