"Adultery as Comedy"
What You Need To Know:
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.
(RoRoRo, H, Pa, LL, V, SS, N, AA, DD, MMM) Very strong Romantic worldview presents pre-marital sex and adultery as acceptable behaviors, mixed together with a humanist mindset and a little pagan thinking; 20 obscenities and five profanities; no violence except man hit in face off screen; implied sex, including fornication and adultery, plus very frank discussion of sex; upper male nudity only; alcohol drinking throughout and drunkenness; marijuana use; and, lying, betrayal, adultery, moral relativism, marriage commitment ridiculed.
A PREVIOUS ENGAGEMENT is the story of Julia (Juliet Stevenson) who goes on a family vacation to Malta with a secret agenda – to meet up with Alex (Tcheky Karyo), a man she fell in love with 25 years ago when they made a pact to meet again on “their” beach. Husband Jack (Daniel Stern) is blissfully unaware of his wife’s plans for a date made 25 years ago. The two ex-lovers do meet up, and Julia is then torn between staying with her husband or leaving him for her long lost boyfriend. The tone is humorous as Julia struggles with being middle aged and feeling unloved. Her husband is insensitive to his wife, and so that sets up the argument for divorce, that he doesn’t really know his wife and that she “has a right to be happy.”
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.