Even if one ignores the story’s implications of incest, Out of Season is a creepy little number. Cliff Robertson plays an American who visits the seaside British hotel run by his old flame, played by Vanessa Redgrave, then rekindles their affair—even as he sleeps with her adult daughter, played by pouty-mouthed sexpot Susan George. Oh, and more than half the film’s scenes comprise bitter arguments, with the mother and daughter spitting venom at each other while the ex-lovers trade vicious accusations and criticisms. This stuff never quite reaches the level of high art, but Alan Bridges’ stately direction, an intelligent script, and three strong performances give Out of Season a certain dark magnetism. And even though the picture is quite talky, one could do worse than listening to Redgrave and Robertson issuing reams of dialogue. George acquits herself well, compensating for one-dimensional shrillness by raising the movie’s temperature considerably during erotic scenes. It’s not fun to watch three people eviscerate each other, but Out of Season holds the viewer’s attention for nearly all of its 90 moody minutes. As for the film’s provenance, reports differ—some sources indicate that the picture is based on a play, though the credits are vague, and it appears the British dramatist Harold Pinter was at one point set to direct the picture. (He made his cinematic directorial debut with the previous year’s Butley, a similarly cruel film.)
In any event, Joe (Robertson) shows up one day and surprises Ann (Redgrave), whom he hasn’t seen in 20 years. Both were married to other people in the intervening period, and Ann is caught in a nasty cycle of squabbles with her daughter, Joanna (George), who resents living in a tiny town. Watching Ann and Joe fall back in love drives Joanna mad with jealously, so she throws herself at Joe, who’s too much of a drunken, self-involved cad to refuse her. There’s more to the picture than that, but those are the broad strokes, so Out of Season unfolds like a thriller—how far will Joe take his illicit affair with Joanna, and when will Joanna spring her trap by revealing what’s happening to her mother? The story isn’t quite meaty enough to support an entire feature, so the narrative energy flags periodically; Bridges and his collaborators would have done well to add a subplot or two. Taken for what it is, Out of Season gets the job done. Robertson’s macho intensity strikes sparks against Redgrave’s pained coldness, and George plays sexual games with such uninhibited insouciance that she’s simultaneously seductive and unbearable, just the right toxic mixture for the situation. Pity the filmmakers didn’t stick the landing, but so be it.
Out of Season: FUNKY