A PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENT
Adultery as Comedy
Starring: Juliet Stevenson, Tcheky
Karyo, Daniel Stern, and
Audience: Older children and adults
Runtime: 118 minutes
Distributor: Palisades Pictures
Director: Joan Carr-Wiggin
Executive Producer: Damita Nikapota, Antony Blakey
and Tobi Mathews
Producer: David Gordian
Writer: Joan Carr-Wiggin
Address Comments To:Vincent Roberti, CEO/Chairman
40 West 57th Street, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 265-2323
Fax: (212) 265-2766
Shot on Malta, the scenery is beautiful. The score is both melodic and telling, the lyrics to the first song shout, “I want to be consequence free.” Juliet Stevenson as Julia carries the whole movie as we get inside her head to understand her. Her performance is captivating, humorous, and tragic all at the same time. The rest of the cast is less so. Daniel Stern as husband Jack has to vacillate between being the insensitive husband and the victim of adultery. He plays both these aspects to extremes.
There’s a moment when the movie looks as if it will reflect the reality of life instead of a Hollywood fabricated tale. For a while, the movie starts to show the futility of chasing romantic fantasies and the bitterness that adultery brings, but the story doesn’t stay there for long. The plot shifts the characters to an eventual ending where romance is valued above all else. The characters care only for themselves, say that their lives are guided by “fate,” and at times even say that nothing in life matters. They’re a mixed-up bunch.
Also, there is no mention of honoring the marriage commitment or even trying to change and work out marital problems. Instead, the issue is set up as either “stay and be unhappy” or “go and be happy.” Julia especially is foul mouthed, both opening and ending the movie with the “f” word. When taking off her wedding ring, she does mumble, “Forgive me God” but that’s the only acknowledgement. There’s smoking marijuana, a daughter who picks up a stranger at the airport, and pre-marital sex and adultery are presented as acceptable.
This movie summarizes the pop culture mindset about adultery and a naïve desire for a “soul mate” – meaning someone not your current spouse. Even after learning that her boyfriend from long ago has since had four failed marriages, Julia thinks that somehow a marriage with him will work. The self-centered message of the movie is very clear but not so artfully presented. We recommend other romantic comedies that uplift love and marriage and don’t work to tear them down.
There’s a moment when the movie looks as if it will reflect the reality of life instead of a Hollywood fantasy. But the plot shifts the characters to value romance above all else. There is no mention of honoring the marriage commitment or trying to work out marital problems. Instead, the issue is set up as either “stay and be unhappy” or “go and be happy.” Julia is foul mouthed, both opening and ending the movie with the “f” word. There’s smoking marijuana, a daughter who picks up a stranger at the airport, and pre-marital sex and adultery are presented as acceptable.