Saturday, February 3, 2018

Second Wind (1976)

          Although nobody would ever describe the Canadian sports drama Second Wind as required viewing, it’s the sort of amiably predictable story that unfurls like the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. Moreover, watching Second Wind recalls a time when small movies about the everyday lives of ordinary people were made regularly, even if those pictures sometimes emerged from the fringes of the industry, as is true of Second Wind. Today, character-study features generally trend toward dark examinations of monsters and one-dimensional celebrations of saints.
          Anyway, Second Wind concerns Roger (James Naughton), a 30-year-old stockbroker for whom everything has come easily. One day, he sees a TV report about a 26-year-old running champion and listens intently to remarks from that athlete’s coach. Inspired, Roger begins jogging, soon discovering he’s not in great shape—yet Roger persists, fascinated by the notion of trying something difficult for the first time in his life. This creates friction with his wife, Linda (Lindsay Wagner), who doesn't understand why Roger prefers spending time alone to spending time with her. Per the formula for this sort of thing, Roger’s new hobby also creates problems at work, because he’s distracted when he should be focused on a major deal, allowing an ambitious coworker to usurp Roger’s stature as the firm’s golden boy. In the film’s least developed subplot, an attractive woman named Paula (Tedde Moore) hits on Roger one day while he’s out jogging, then tries to seduce him, testing Roger’s fidelity to the long-suffering Linda.
          The characters in Second Wind are drawn fairly well by screenwriter Hal Ackerman (later to become a popular screenwriting teacher at UCLA’s film school), and some of the dialogue clicks, especially passages of sarcastic banter. More importantly, the overall narrative has a pleasing shape, fully exploring Roger’s dalliance with athletic endeavor. Therefore, fretting that the picture lacks surprise somewhat misses the point, since the focus is Roger testing his limits. Naughton, never the deepest of players, lends likeability and sincerity, while Wagner mostly runs her fingers through her hair. In one unintentionally amusing bit, her character tries jogging but quickly gives up—quite a change from familiar images of Wagner running endlessly as The Bionic Woman.

Second Wind: FUNKY

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