john cribbs

sidney lumet's THE MORNING AFTER

page 3


(continued from page 2)

So back to the original question: why did Lumet want to make this movie? Following the left-leaning Daniel and Power it was only natural that he'd team with Hanoi Jane, but what was the appeal? Her father, as he points out on the commentary, hired Lumet to direct his first feature (12 Angry Men) and further supplied an excellent performance in that film, thus creating a classic. On the commentary Lumet name drops "Hank," mentions meeting his young daughter "at nineteen," details Fonda's enthusiasm for the project and her courting of him as director. He has nothing but praise for his star, describing her as "brave," "tireless," "superb." Every other comment is a remark on Fonda's courageousness as an actress, producer, independent woman – hmmm. Lumet seems to be absolutely infatuated with his star. He literally does not miss an opportunity to lavish acclaim on Fonda, topping it all off with: "One of the things I love here is Jane's final close-up Now look at that – that's pretty attractive!"

Could it be? I think it is. Ladies and gentleman what we have here is a classic case of a director falling in love with an actress and, out of blindness, making a terrible movie not within a thousand miles of anything else he'd ever done. But don't take my word for it: here’s an actual quote from the commentary

"If it seems like I’'m in love with Jane Fonda, it’'s because I am."

After the Big Drunk Oscar Courting scene, Lumet reveals on the commentary, Fonda hugged him. She allegedly shit-faced, him in love. And this is the kind of movie emotions produce out in that unfamiliar landscape known as Los Angeles. Lumet fell for a movie star and helped make her pet project a reality. For Fonda it meant an Academy Award nomination. For him it meant making a film for an actress, playing the lead role, ignoring one of the key aspects of his stronger pictures. What this film has in common with both of those 90’s flops I mentioned earlier – A Stranger Among Us and Guilty as Sin – is having a female lead, something it doesn't share with the womanless 12 Angry Men, The Hill, The Pawnbroker, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network (worst part of the film: Faye Dunaway subplot), Prince of the City, The Verdict (worst part of the film: Charlotte Rampling subplot) and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (worst part of the film: Marisa Tomei subplot.) Lumet's best films are not female-driven: they're male-centric man-vs-institution, moral and physical breakdown-and-build-back-up crisis dramas. Yet here his feelings towards Fonda led him to miscalculate. He got soft!

Before I court any serious misogyny accusations, I'll end by further blaming this film's failure on a guy. No not Sidney – you can't fault a dude for falling in love, can you? Rather let's single out Paul Chihara, whose terrible, overenthusiastic score is just embarrassing. Remember how Dog Day Afternoon had no music besides the opening Elton John song? This has a song and it's not "The Morning After," it’s Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" as ambient music at a hair salon. So you can imagine how well that's dated.

Incidentally I always thought the producers of The Poseidon Adventure blew it by not making "The Morning After" the subtitle of Poseidon Adventure 2. Because get it, that's the name of the song from the movie and you could start the sequel the next day when some other boat-related adventure happens and there's the relevance of the title right there, plus Maureen McGovern fans would be excited. Instead they called the sequel Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, and it DOES opening the morning after the events of the first film, so yeah - missed opportunity there.

Maybe when they sequelize the remake they can call it Poseidon II: The Morning After. Actually I guess it would have to be called Poseidon II: Won't Let You Fall since they used the Fergie song in that one...but that's not a very good subtitle. Still better than Beyond the Poseidon.


Anyway, in summation:

The director: Sidney Lumet

The movie: The Morning After (1986)

Why so out of place in director’s filmography?: Unfocused, LA-shot, female-driven, badly-written “melodrama” with terrible music.

Why the director strayed: Apparent crush on the leading actress.

Scale of embarrassment for the director: 8 out of 10

His triumphant return to form: Q & A (1990)

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