Period Of Adjustment
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A pretty hospital night nurse (Jane Fonda) says "I do" to the Korean War vet (Jim Hutton) under her care. Within moments she wonders what she's done. Ralph (Tony Franciosa) wed for money five years ago but has grown to love his bride (Lois Nettleton). Except she just walked out on him. Y'all linger and look on as these pairs go through a Period of Adjustment. This splintered-souls romantic comedy from an unexpected source is very much a movie of firsts: Tennessee Williams' first comedy, director George Roy Hill's first feature, Nettleton's big-screen debut and a personal period of adjustment for Fonda, the filmmaking experience that made her realize she could master the elusive craft of creating a character on film.
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Usually, the streaming version is identical to the DVD on Warner Archive, but digital copy files can become corrupted over time, with repeated use, just imagine the last TayIor Swift video you watched (yes, old people listen to Taylor Swift). Digital versions are often refreshed or re-downloaded by vendors every so often to minimize errors. On this one, there are several places on the digital version where pixellation is significant or where the picture simply becomes blurry to the level you would see at a resolution of around 220 to 250, which is worse than a vhs. For that reason, I give the streaming video version 4 stars, where the disc is a genuine 5 star standard definition presentation. To be clear, the rest of the digital/streaming version is identical to the Warner Archive DVD and, once this refreshes with the original source, it will most likely be identical, as it is meant to be. Even with the video flaws on the streaming version, it is a wonderful transfer, given the age of the film, and is very much worth the viewing. I have found that the pixellation and blurring as limited to just a couple of scenes and, therefore, do not diminish the viewing of the film by any significant amount.
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If you want to spend an evening with a movie that has you laughing at the antics of married folk (without the smarmy inuendoes) I highly recommend this movie which will leave you thinking about the main themes for a long time to come. It is certainly appropiate to watch with your teenagers; great for parent teen discussions about the real meaning of marriage.Yes, there are some values which are timeless and worthwhile to talk about with your teens.
You won't regret the investment.
The title refers to a "period of adjustment" in two young couples married lives. Isabel and George Haverstick (played by Jane Fonda and Jim Hutton) are newlyweds, married after a brief whirlwind courtship, dismayed to discover they really don't know much about each other, or their sensibilities, and as such have been unable to consummate their marriage during their disastrous honeymoon. George's best friend from the Air Force, Ralph Bates, (Tony Franciosa) has been married to his wife Dottie (Lois Nettleton) for six years and has a little boy, but the stress and frustration of working for his boorish, blustering father-in-law has brought him to the breaking point. He quits his job on Christmas Eve without letting Dottie know, in her hurt and anger she winds up leaving him, staying with her father & nouveau riche, pretentious mother. George, tense, sexually frustrated, with a mysterious tremor of his hands that appears in times of stress or crisis, drives the overwrought, romantically disillusioned Isabel to Ralph's house on Christmas Eve. He hopes to interest him in a pie in the sky business opportunity, but really is there more for Ralph's advice as the older more experienced married man. However, as mentioned above Ralph has plenty marital problems of his own. Sounds more like a recipe for a Tennessee Williams drama than a romantic comedy, doesn't it?
Yet, although the subject matter is serious, (and for the early 1960's rather bold, I'm not sure if impotence and male performance anxiety were ever explored in a romantic comedy before), Ms. Lennart does leaven it with lighthearted humor ranging from moments of wit to broad slapstick. Although both couples are going through a rough patch in their marriages, the situation is never desperate or without hope. The fact that most of the film takes place on Christmas Eve, the season of miracles, reassures the viewer that all will be resolved happily in the end. A holiday glow diffuses the screen, even though it is shot in black and white not color. Despite the tension, there is a warm and tender atmosphere in the Bates home; the twinkling Christmas tree with the little boy's presents beneath, and the cozily flickering fireplace with the banner "Merry Christmas" strung along the mantle, the lighting soft and gentle. The art and set direction by George W. Davis is so good in fact that it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction for 1962,the only Oscar nomination unfortunately received.
Jane Fonda once said in an interview this was the first time she felt relaxed and at ease in a film, and came to the realization that movies were for her. This comes through in her performance, the best she had given so far in the 4th of her film roles as she begins to blossom into the charming light comedienne that would later shine in "Sunday in New York", "Cat Ballou" and especially "Barefoot in the Park". She is both wryly comic and endearing as the naive, sheltered young bride, who finds the harsh reality far removed from the storybook marriage she probably has dreamed of as a young girl. Her Southern accent is nicely handled, not too syrupy, and it never slips away from her.
Ralph Bates, serving as counselor, mediator and sometimes referee to the battling Haversticks, while trying making sense of his own troubled marriage is very warmly played by Tony Franciosa. He brings out Ralph's humanity, a truly "nice guy", who takes a genuine interest in people, sees issues clearly, and tries to help them resolve their problems. He instantly befriends the heartsick, forlorn Isabel, and tactfully tries to make the stubborn George see that no man is a Superman, that a real man can admit and address doubts and fears, particularly an inexperienced newlywed. Mr. Franciosa is not sanctimonious however, he shows Ralph's flaws, and the underlying pain and bewilderment he feels at the collapse of his marriage.
In portraying Dottie Bates, Lois Nettleton brings a poignant dignity to this young woman whose insecurity as a former "homely girl", (she is quite attractive now) comes back to haunt her and causes her to make a hastily considered decision to end her marriage. Ms. Nettleton lets you see the regression from the loving, self assured person she is when we first meet her in her own home to the tentative, self doubting daughter who has retreated back to her parents home.
Jim Hutton has a tough job to make the callow George Haverstick full of empty bravado likeable, particularly in the early part of the movie when he is so insensitive to his young bride. But as the story unwinds, Hutton gives hints of the doubts that are underneath the macho exterior, also his inexperience (if he's not a virgin, he's not far removed) and fear of not living up to an unrealistic image of a "superman" lover that brings on his "shakes". In the final scene, as Isabel and he in nightclothes are nervously perched on opposite sides of the pullout sofa bed, the viewer is rooting for him as he haltingly admits the truth to the understanding, reassuring Isabel.
A quick word about three supporting performers: John McGiver who usually portrays upper class characters as in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "The Manchurian Candidate" gets a nice change of pace as the lower class Stuart McGill, Dottie's father, who delightfully mangles his grammar. As Dottie's obnoxious mother who fancies herself as a Southern aristocrat, Mabel Albertson starts her mother from hell series that would later be on television in "Bewitched" and "That Girl." Her real life brother Jack Albertson gives a nice cameo as the genial police sergeant truly bewildered by the McGills attempts to charge Ralph with "attempted embezzlement".
Finally kudos given to the director George Roy Hill, who had also directed the original Broadway play, for the superb transfer from stage to screen. This was his first film and he shows the skill and talent that would later be evidenced in such varied motion pictures as "The World of Henry Orient", "Hawaii" "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting"
Each year at Christmastime, Turner Classic Movies runs this film at least once, I never miss it, and it has become one of my favorite Christmas films. Now, it's long overdue to bring it out on DVD with ideally a commentary by Ms. Fonda, the only major contributor still alive, the rest of the cast, George Roy Hill and Isabel Lennart are all sadly gone, but in this film their excellence lives on.