Sunday, September 24, 2017

If Ever I See You Again (1978)

          After subjecting the world to the horrors of You Light Up My Life, both the sickly-sweet song of that name and the vapid romantic movie from which the song was derived, Joseph Brooks struck again with this spectacular misfire. For the previous project, Brooks served as producer, writer, composer, and director. For If Ever I See You Again, he also stepped in front of the camera to make his acting debut as the leading man in a big-budget motion picture. Whether hubristic or naïve, Brooks’ decision to cast himself ranks among the worst choices in mainstream filmmaking history, though it’s not as if a real performer could have elevated the laughable material. Everything about If Ever I See You Again is false, from the characters to the emotions to the plotting, so in a perverse way, Brooks’ lifeless performance adds just the right grace note. He plays Bob Morrison, a successful writer of TV-commercial jingles. Back in college, he romanced a quixotic woman named Jennifer, and today, now that he’s a widowed father of two, he’s feeling nostalgic. One fateful day, when Bob’s work takes him from New York to Los Angeles, he looks up Jennifer’s number and calls her. Surprised to hear from her old lover, Jennifer (Shelley Hack) invites him to visit her groovy beach house. And so begins their second attempt at an on-again/off-again relationship.
          Brooks is such a weak storyteller that he doesn’t even include the most obvious narrative obstacle, another man in Jennifer’s life. Accordingly, one gets the impression that she’s been sitting around for years waiting for Bob to call, even though she repeatedly pumps the brakes on their courtship. Jennifer is not a character so much as a vague object of desire, a problem exacerbated by former model Hack’s acting. Her work is as bogus and empty as Brooks’. While enduring some poorly made romantic movies, the audience struggles to care whether onscreen people will get together. While enduring If Ever I See You Again, you may find yourself struggling to care whether onscreen people exist. While every scene with Brooks and Hack is almost hypnotically bad, the rest of the picture is frustrating because of the technical skill on display—cinematography, editing, and the like are all aces here—and because vignettes depicting, say, ad-agency meetings and recording sessions have easygoing realism. Furthermore, it’s bizarre to encounter famous writers Jimmy Breslin and George Plimpton in supporting roles. On the fringes, If Ever I See You Again resembles a real movie—but where it matters, Brooks’ sophomore effort is astoundingly awful.

If Ever I See You Again: LAME

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