Thanks to a one-night stand, small-town girl Jenny is pregnant. Confused and naïve, she moves to New York, hoping to figure things out at some undetermined point in the future. Then she has a meet-cute with Delano, a self-assured filmmaker who makes arty independent projects when he isn’t directing commercials for rent money. Turns out he’s got a problem, too. He’s eligible for the draft, and doesn't much like the idea of dying in Southeast Asia. After they spend some time together, Delano proposes a pragmatic suggestion: marriage. That way, her baby-to-be gets a father with a good income, and Delano gets a chance at persuading the government his domestic obligations preclude military service. Never mind that Delano has a girlfriend and zero romantic interest in sweet, sheltered Jenny. That’s the basic setup for Jenny, a slight but well-observed dramedy starring Marlo Thomas, then at the height of her success in the sitcom That Girl, and Alan Alda, a year before his own sitcom success with M*A*S*H. Both actors imbue their roles with nuance and sensitivity, and the direction and screenplay give them interesting emotional terrain to explore.
In many ways, Jenny is a respectable character piece touching on weighty social issues. However, the film falls into two easy traps. First, it uses lightheartedness to wriggle out of tricky narrative situations, and second, it cops out with a fashionably ambiguous ending. The most ambitious elements of the picture demand serious treatment for the issues they raise, and the sincere work by the leading actors warrants a proper conclusion. That’s why watching Jenny is as frustrating as it is rewarding.
Nonetheless, Thomas deepens a potentially simplistic role with real emotion, so we feel her character’s anguish at being used by Delano, even though she entered into the sham marriage fully aware of its parameters. Similarly, Alda does a fine job of playing a heel whose conscience nags at him—Alda sketches the vivid picture of a sophisticate who has difficulty reconciling emotions and intellectualism. Also noteworthy is Vincent Gardenia, who appears as Jenny’s father in a brief but effective sequence. With a few simple moves of behavior and physical carriage, he speaks volumes about the Generation Gap, expressing the pain straight-laced parents felt watching their children experiment with new and untried social structures. There’s much to like here, not least being the imaginative camerawork by director George Bloomfield and cinematographer David L. Quaid. Ultimately, however, Jenny falters by not seeing its premise through.