Jill Clayburgh, An Unmarried Woman

Monday, March 25, 2013


Comments

“….Suddenly her world is wrenched out of her moorings. She is floating free, giddy and desperate, and Mazursky's camera is floating with her. Her whole life is suddenly an improvised dance and her face a mirror of shifting moods ranging from abject defeat to ecstatic regeneration. The lyrical dimension of An Unmarried Woman is wonderfully controlled and modulated.

“For me, Jill Clayburgh's richly resourceful performance was a wondrous surprise. Even after she seemed to have hit instant stardom in Silver Streak and Semi-Tough, I found her a trifle mannered and fussy, and, hence, not quite in the top rank of screen naturals. After An Unmarried Woman she will be hard to beat as actress of the year. But then, Mazursky has been something of a magician with actresses, from Dyan Cannon in Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice through Ellen Burstyn in Alex in Wonderland and Harry and Tonto and Susan Anspach and Marsha Mason in Blume in Love. (Indeed, I have not found Marsha Mason even remotely appealing since Blume in Love.)….”

Andrew Sarris, Village Voice, March ?, 1978



“[Mazursky] makes no apologies for the upper-middle classness of his characters, nor is he worried that someone might think their emotional problems are not as real as the problems, say, of paraplegics or political prisoners.

“…. Erica is every one of us, or, if not us, then someone we know very well, the one who hasn’t written a book about it yet. Erica—or any real-life counterpart—is the one who married right out of college, a reflex action from which all else reflexively followed. If she hadn’t been walked out on she would never have had the nerve, or the wherewithal—economic or professional—to walk out herself. Once abandoned, however, Erica is the one who discovers, like so many women, that she can survive, and in the pleasure and confidence that come from that knowledge she has won half the battle.

“Jill Clayburgh has the role of a lifetime and is glorious. There is a simplicity, a transparency to her here that hasn't come through in her previous performances. She now finally deserves the Clayburgh cult that has been building, in my view, a bit prematurely. Credit Mazursky, who, like Bergman, seems to win the confidence of women. They allow his camera to seek out and find subtleties of expression and echoes of a complex, sensual intelligence that never surface in their work for other directors. Even Lisa Lucas as the adolescent daughter is extraordinary as she switches like quicksilver from being child to woman and back again, and from being her father's daughter to being her mother's.”

Molly Haskell, New York, March 6, 1978


“Jill Clayburgh has a cracked, warbly voice--a modern polluted-city huskiness. And her trembling, near-beautiful prettiness suggests a lot of pressure; her face is a little off-key, quizzical and unsymmetrical, and too thin for her features. (Nature intended there to be cheeks where there are only hollows.) On the stage, she can be dazzling, but the camera isn't in love with her--she doesn't seem lighted from within. When Erica's life falls apart and her reactions go out of control, Clayburgh's floating, not-quite-sure, not-quite-here quality is just right. And she knows how to use it: she isn't afraid to get puffy-eyed from crying, or to let her face go slack. No other film has made such a sensitive, empathic case for a modern woman's need to call her soul her own, and An Unmarried Woman is funny and buoyant besides. It's an enormously friendly, soft-edged picture. Yet there's a lot of hot air circulating in it. Mazursky … is a superb shaggy screenwriter and rarely less than deft, but he touches so many women's-liberation bases that you begin to feel virtuous, as if you'd been passing out leaflets for McGovern….

“Jill Clayburgh's appeal to the audience is in her addled radiance; she seems so punchy that we're a little worried for her. And so when the movie provides Erica with a robust, worshipful man with good instincts (and he's even got money), and she hesitates and demurs and worries about her development, we lose interest in her….

“Identifying with the heroes [in his prior movies such as Blume in Love and Next Stop, Greenwich Village], Mazursky didn't stay away from making them fools. But here, trying to identify with Erica and tell the movie from a woman's point of view, he does shy away from having her look foolish. And because women are still mysterious to him, he takes refuge in the new women's rhetoric….

“…. From the way Mazursky presents Erica, when she indicates to Saul that she isn't ready to live with him--that she needs more time--we can't tell whether she's struggling toward independence or embracing the generalized anxiety and dissatisfaction in the culture and sinking into it. Mazursky's underlying ambivalence may be partly responsible for the lack of inner strength and depth in Jill Clayburgh's performance…. The parts of the movie don't fit together. This nebulous tormentor Erica is not the same woman who was happily married for sixteen years; she was never happily married. She was never solid and all there. Mazursky turned away from his story about the tragicomic shattered lives of divorcées who can't find the emotional security of a new marriage toward the story of a woman who's looking for something--unformulated--in herself…. He doesn't know what's going on in Erica's head.

“Despite Mazursky's conscious intentions, Saul has been made such a rich, loamy Father Earth figure that he overpowers the movie, and Erica seems puny and pale by comparison…. Erica seems an idiot for resisting him--the picture leaves her turning in the wind, like a slightly gaga Mother Courage directed by Andrei Serban.”

Pauline Kael, New Yorker, March 6, 1978
When the Lights Go Down, 410-14

 “…. Mazursky is a master psychologist, unmatched in his ability to expose the complex emotional subtext of casual, everyday events.

“What I especially admire about the film is its evenhandedness. Most directors are so desperate to make their main characters lovable that they fail to present them in the round. Mazursky works with a remarkable mixture of detachment and compassion. He's willing to portray Erica as wrongheaded or infuriating at moments, and he doesn't score points off other characters by sentimentalizing his heroine…. In a confrontation scene Mazursky respects the point of view of each of the combatants; that's what makes his domestic squabbles dramatic.

“Mazursky is especially fortunate to have Jill Clayburgh in the leading role. Clayburgh is in the classic tradition of American actresses--a smart, sensible, down-to-earth woman who can cut through any kind of pretense or hypocrisy. Clayburgh takes chances; she's not afraid to be hard and abrasive. Yet she exudes a luminous warmth even in her coldest moments of rage, and that's why she never loses her rapport with the audience. In one scene, Erica and her friends lament the disappearance of the great female stars. They shouldn't worry. With Jill Clayburgh finally getting the roles that she deserves, American movies are looking a lot brighter….”

Stephen Farber, New West, March 13, 1978

“… Clayburgh's acting in the movie has an uncannily natural, unrehearsed quality, [but] almost nothing was improvised….”

Farber, "Jill Clayburgh: Breaking the Ties That Bind"
New West, March 13, 1978

“Erica may be the most developed character in all the recent women's films, and Jill Clayburgh’s portrayal is a revelation. The sense of strain, of willed effervescence in Clayburgh's earlier work has vanished: whether screaming in rage at a date who's made a gauche pass or quietly commiserating with her "club" of women friends, she gets deep inside her part and never lets go....”

David Ansen, Newsweek, March ?, 1978

“Jill Clayburgh’s acting in “An Unmarried Woman” lingers in my mind more than any performance since Ellen Burstyn played Alice.”

Arthur Bell, Village Voice, March 6, 1978
(interview with Clayburgh)

“Erica (Jill Clayburgh) … has always taken damned good care of herself…. Erica's life is strenuous, happy and carefully protected…. Like so many upper-middle-class women of her generation (she's about 38) Erica might be defined by her tastes and interests rather than her work and passions…. [N]othing has ever tested her much. But then … her husband tells her he's fallen in love with a girl he met in Bloomingdale's and her life falls apart. Alone for the first time, she feels panicky, empty, angry. Tentatively, she begins searching … for something new. Yet what that new life might be she has no idea. None at all.

“…. By making Erica rich, beautiful and utterly sane, Mazursky has limited the range of her experience in advance, and he never lets her suffer deeply…. Erica is an ideal abandoned woman . . . . Still…, it's a juicy, knowing and intimate movie, brilliantly acted, sensitively directed, and filled with lovingly accurate observation of that greatest of movie sets, our cultural and personal battlefield, New York City…. As a social chronicle, the film is flawless.

“…. [The] scenes of Erica with women are the weakest in the film, and I suspect that Mazursky's heart isn't in them. He knows that female solidarity comforts an abandoned woman, so he doesn't poke fun at it, but sisterhood just isn't real for him--not the way encounters between men and women, no matter how brief are real.

“Once these encounters [between men and women] begin, the movie comes brilliantly to life….

“Jill Clayburgh is perfect for this part of the movie. Her dominant characteristic is an appealing vagueness. She's tall and leggy, with a sensational long back, but there's something shapeless and colorless about her face; the complexion is whitish; the gray-green eyes, usually at half-mast, aren't quite in focus, and her nasal voice wanders alarmingly, like a bagpipe running out of wind. In earlier movies Clayburgh has been charming, though she's often had trouble finding the center of her emotions; Mazursky is the first director to use that indecisiveness dramatically. Staring in a mirror, the abandoned Erica tries to compose her face into a mask of woe, but she cracks up and makes a stupid joke; she knows perfectly well that she's not a tragic heroine. What she feels is a generalized sense of loss. Questioned about her emotions, this large, floppy, unaggressive woman gives way to bewildered tears. She had no idea life could be so painful. From there on, Erica's pain and anger are the only emotions she can be clear about; when she puts down those men, she momentarily knows who she is.

“Clayburgh's skittishness gives the sex scenes a startling comic tension. Has there ever been a funnier or more accurate one-night stand than Erica's encounter with Charlie, the "promising" wood sculptor and established SoHo sex hustler?…. Clayburgh, stripped to her panties, has her finest moment--a nervous, pigeon-toed run across Gorman's loft to turn out the lights…. [review cut]

“…. [Mazursky's] made Saul [Alan Bates] such a grizzled, vital Adam that all of nature seems to call out for union with Erica. Yet [Mazursky] respects her tremulous, unformed desire to find herself. Erica resists, and at the end she's left spinning around in the wind, trying to hold on to one of Saul's huge paintings in the SoHo streets. She's gone from jogging to spinning--from secure and pointless routine to a whirligig of identities and possibilities. It's a tentative, inconclusive ending that will probably satisfy no one, particularly women. Feminists will wonder why Erica hasn't taken greater control of her life; divorcees will be sore because they've never met a man like Saul Kaplan, much less had the opportunity to turn him down.

“However…., [g]iven the character of Erica as developed through the movie, her unwillingness to throw in her lot with such a powerful man as Saul makes perfect sense. As I said earlier, it's Mazursky's conception of the character that limits the film.... [I]f she weren't so well off, she wouldn't have much time to dither about her identity, and the last third of the movie might have been more decisive … [I]f [Mazursky] had taken her much further into trouble, kept her at the extremes of her emotions, he might have ended with a radiant affirmation rather than a large question mark. But at least he's asking the right questions.”

David Denby, Boston Phoenix, April 4, 1978

"Mazursky, a former and still intermittent actor, has a sharp sens of casting, and wonderful performances pop up all over the movie....

"Most impressive of all is, appropriately, Jill Clayburgh's Erica, a soman rendered in all the complex interplay of antithetical impulses, ranging from subservience and vulnerability to angry or hopeful resilience. The actress exudes a wealth of inner activity and an ample repertoire of fascinatingly changing expressions, better than any kind of static, conventional prettiness. Thus, in a skating scene in Rockefeller Center, the camera comes in tight on her for what seems like an unconcsionably long time as Erica has her first sense of being blessed by freedom. A lesser actress would have portrayed the sort of outburst of eudemonia that is occasioned by a superior detergent in a TV commercial; Miss Clayburgh gives us something as gradual and miraculous as the opening of a flower followed through all its steps by a nature documentary. She goes from smiling disbelief to ever more confident laughter with an authority that the film, good as it often is, ultimately lacks."

John Simon, National Review, April 14, 1978

“And now [Mazursky] thinks that Jill Clayburgh is an engrossing screen figure. Clayburgh was passable in Semi-Tough, where she was one of a trio of jokesters, and anyway Burt Reynolds was carrying the personality ball; but this picture is supposed to take place within the recesses of her soul, she is supposed to contain the story. And she is only a slick mannequin, seemingly made of chrome. I have the feeling that if you flicked her with your finger, she would ping.

“But even if the leading role had been played by a woman who can command interest--say, Jane Fonda at her best, even her second-best--the film still would be loaded with clichés, old and new….

“…. [T]his picture carries a buried insult to its ostensible subject. Finally, the picture says that what a woman really needs is a man: that's what will solve her identity problems and all her other problems. The New Woman's troubles are cleared away just like Joan Crawford's--by Mr. Right. Is that all there is to the New Selfhood? Most young women apparently still like living with men… But I doubt that many of them look for a man to take the burden of independence off their shoulders, as the old mythology has it and as, under the mod glitz, Mazursky persists….”

Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic, March 11, 1978

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Andrew Sarris

“…. He breaks down and sobs on the street as he tells her there is someone else and their marriage is over. But it is she who throws up afterward. Suddenly her world is wrenched out of her moorings. She is floating free, giddy and desperate, and Mazursky's camera is floating with her. Her whole life is suddenly an improvised dance and her face a mirror of shifting moods ranging from abject defeat to ecstatic regeneration. The lyrical dimension of An Unmarried Woman is wonderfully controlled and modulated.

“For me, Jill Clayburgh's richly resourceful performance was a wondrous surprise. Even after she seemed to have hit instant stardom in Silver Streak and Semi-Tough, I found her a trifle mannered and fussy, and, hence, not quite in the top rank of screen naturals. After An Unmarried Woman she will be hard to beat as actress of the year. But then, Mazursky has been something of a magician with actresses, from Dyan Cannon in Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice through Ellen Burstyn in Alex in Wonderland and Harry and Tonto and Susan Anspach and Marsha Mason in Blume in Love. (Indeed, I have not found Marsha Mason even remotely appealing since Blume in Love.)….”

Andrew Sarris
Village Voice, date?

“Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman has caused bitter controversies all year, but I still consider it the least-worst movie of the year, and Jill Clayburgh the best actress…. [M]any East Side, West Side and All-Around-the-Town women have virtually besieged me with their complaints about Clayburgh's deficiencies and excesses as a representative of their sex, class, and status. Some complain about her lean, shapely thighs as they slap the fatty tissue in their own rump; others attack her as Mazursky's idealized shiksa, although they forgive Woody Allen the same idealization of Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Some complain that she has too much money; others, that she is not deep enough intellectually and culturally…. Above all, where does she get off having an affair with a dreamy British abstract expressionist who looks like Alan Bates, and who has his work hung in MOMA! And where does she get the gall to refuse his invitation to spend the summer with him in Vermont?

“Deep down, I think, most of Clayburgh's women critics are angry because they feel that the Clayburgh character has not suffered nearly enough; certainly not as much as they feel that they themselves have suffered at the hands of men. They are more comfortable with Liv Ullmann's endlessly kvetching mother-hater in Autumn Sonata. Strangely, these women do not mind romantic male fantasy figures on the screen, but they abhor a romantic female fantasy figure, which may explain why the ERA is in such trouble…. [left out explanation?]

Andrew Sarris
"Craft Over Art: The 10 Least-Worst Movies of '78"
Village Voice, January 1, 1979

Molly Haskell

“In the beginning of Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman, Erica, the still-married heroine played by Jill Clayburgh, is a person treading water, though in high urban style…. She skims the surface of her life with exquisite grace but never touches ground. Then, out of the blue, her husband tells her he is leaving her for a younger woman. She lands with a thud.

“Mazursky captures her state of mind with what is, for him, an unusually baroque visual conceit. In a sudden, cyclonic movement she whirls away from Murphy and across the street, as if, without the gravitational pull he exerts on her own life, she would disappear altogether.

“Fear enters her eyes for the first time. The rest of Mazursky’s brilliantly funny comedy about a painful liberation is concerned with the agonizing process by which she puts herself back together—or assembles herself for the first time….

“In a final, vortexlike image that echoes but redefines the earlier movement, she whirls again down the sidewalk, hugging the huge canvas he [the painter who “loves her madly”] as left with her, buffeted by winds but clinging, too, to her newly won sense of self. It is a fine and wondrous moment in the cinema when an ordinary woman’t triumph over her own life is more dizzying and satisfying than the traditional happy ending.

“Mazursky’s is a sensibility gloriously free of the cramping effects of ideological boxes. He makes no apologies for the upper-middle classness of his characters, nor is he worried that someone might think their emotional problems are not as reals as the problems, say, of paraplegics or political prisoners.

“…. Erica is every one of us, or, if not us, then someone we know very well, the one who hasn’t written a book about it yet. Erica—or any real-life counterpart—is the one who married right out of college, a reflex action from which all else reflexively followed. If she hadn’t been walked out on she would never have had the nerve, or the wherewithal—economic or professional—to walk out herself. Once abandoned, however, Erica is the one who discovers, like so many women, tht she can survive, and in the pleasure and confidence that come from that knowledge she has won half the battle.

“Jill Clayburgh has the role of a lifetime and is glorious. There is a simplicity, a transparency to her here that hasn't come through in her previous performances. She now finally deserves the Clayburgh cult that has been building, in my view, a bit prematurely. Credit Mazursky, who, like Bergman, seems to win the confidence of women. They allow his camera to seek out and find subtleties of expression and echoes of a complex, sensual intelligence that never surface in their work for other directors. Even Lisa Lucas as the adolescent daughter is extraordinary as she switches like quicksilver from being child to woman and back again, and from being her father's daughter to being her mother's.”

Molly Haskell
New York, March 6, 1978

[Note that, just a few months earlier, Diane Keaton had given the ?]

Pauline Kael

“Erica … sleeps in a T-shirt and bikini panties. There are so few movies that deal with recognizable people that this detail alone is enough to pick up one's spirits….

“Jill Clayburgh has a cracked, warbly voice--a modern polluted-city huskiness. And her trembling, near-beautiful prettiness suggests a lot of pressure; her face is a little off-key, quizzical and unsymmetrical, and too thin for her features. (Nature intended there to be cheeks where there are only hollows.) On the stage, she can be dazzling, but the camera isn't in love with her--she doesn't seem lighted from within. When Erica's life falls apart and her reactions go out of control, Clayburgh's floating, not-quite-sure, not-quite-here quality is just right. And she knows how to use it: she isn't afraid to get puffy-eyed from crying, or to let her face go slack. No other film has made such a sensitive, empathic case for a modern woman's need to call her soul her own, and An Unmarried Woman is funny and buoyant besides. It's an enormously friendly, soft-edged picture. Yet there's a lot of hot air circulating in it. Mazursky … is a superb shaggy screenwriter and rarely less than deft, but he touches so many women's-liberation bases that you begin to feel virtuous, as if you'd been passing out leaflets for McGovern….

“Jill Clayburgh's appeal to the audience is in her addled radiance; she seems so punchy that we're a little worried for her. And so when the movie provides Erica with a robust, worshipful man with good instincts (and he's even got money), and she hesitates and demurs and worries about her development, we lose interest in her….

“Identifying with the heroes [in his prior movies such as Blume in Love and Next Stop, Greenwich Village], Mazursky didn't stay away from making them fools. But here, trying to identify with Erica and tell the movie from a woman's point of view, he does shy away from having her look foolish. And because women are still mysterious to him, he takes refuge in the new women's rhetoric….

“…. From the way Mazursky presents Erica, when she indicates to Saul that she isn't ready to live with him--that she needs more time--we can't tell whether she's struggling toward independence or embracing the generalized anxiety and dissatisfaction in the culture and sinking into it. Mazursky's underlying ambivalence may be partly responsible for the lack of inner strength and depth in Jill Clayburgh's performance…. The parts of the movie don't fit together. This nebulous tormentor Erica is not the same woman who was happily married for sixteen years; she was never happily married. She was never solid and all there. Mazursky turned away from his story about the tragicomic shattered lives of divorcées who can't find the emotional security of a new marriage toward the story of a woman who's looking for something--unformulated--in herself…. He doesn't know what's going on in Erica's head.

“Despite Mazursky's conscious intentions, Saul has been made such a rich, loamy Father Earth figure that he overpowers the movie, and Erica seems puny and pale by comparison…. Erica seems an idiot for resisting him--the picture leaves her turning in the wind, like a slightly gaga Mother Courage directed by Andrei Serban.”

Pauline Kael
New Yorker, March 6, 1978
When the Lights Go Down, 410-14
[review cuts]

Stephen Farber

“…. Mazursky is a master psychologist, unmatched in his ability to expose the complex emotional subtext of casual, everyday events.

“What I especially admire about the film is its evenhandedness. Most directors are so desperate to make their main characters lovable that they fail to present them in the round. Mazursky works with a remarkable mixture of detachment and compassion. He's willing to portray Erica as wrongheaded or infuriating at moments, and he doesn't score points off other characters by sentimentalizing his heroine…. In a confrontation scene Mazursky respects the point of view of each of the combatants; that's what makes his domestic squabbles dramatic.

“Mazursky is especially fortunate to have Jill Clayburgh in the leading role. Clayburgh is in the classic tradition of American actresses--a smart, sensible, down-to-earth woman who can cut through any kind of pretense or hypocrisy. Clayburgh takes chances; she's not afraid to be hard and abrasive. Yet she exudes a luminous warmth even in her coldest moments of rage, and that's why she never loses her rapport with the audience. In one scene, Erica and her friends lament the disappearance of the great female stars. They shouldn't worry. With Jill Clayburgh finally getting the roles that she deserves, American movies are looking a lot brighter….”

Stephen Farber
New West, March 13, 1978

“… Clayburgh's acting in the movie has an uncannily natural, unrehearsed quality, [but] almost nothing was improvised….”

Farber
"Jill Clayburgh: Breaking the Ties That Bind"
New West, March 13, 1978
[review my edit of above paragraph]

David Ansen

“Erica may be the most developed character in all the recent women's films, and Jill Clayburgh’s portrayal is a revelation. The sense of strain, of willed efferscence in Clayburgh's earlier work has vanished: whether screaming in rage at a date who's made a gauche pass or quietly commiserating with her "club" of women friends, she gets deep inside her part and never lets go. The supporting cast is no less fine….”

David Ansen
Newsweek, date?
[don't have whole review]

Arthur Bell

“Jill Clayburgh’s acting in “An Unmarried Woman” lingers in my mind more than any performance since Ellen Burstyn played Alice.”

Arthur Bell
Village Voice, March 6, 1978
(interview with Clayburgh)

David Denby

“Erica (Jill Clayburgh) … has always taken damned good care of herself…. Erica's life is strenuous, happy and carefully protected…. Like so many upper-middle-class women of her generation (she's about 38) Erica might be defined by her tastes and interests rather than her work and passions…. [N]othing has ever tested her much. But then … her husband tells her he's fallen in love with a girl he met in Bloomingdale's and her life falls apart. Alone for the first time, she feels panicky, empty, angry. Tentatively, she begins searching … for something new. Yet what that new life might be she has no idea. None at all.

“…. By making Erica rich, beautiful and utterly sane, Mazursky has limited the range of her experience in advance, and he never lets her suffer deeply…. Erica is an ideal abandoned woman . . . . Still…, it's a juicy, knowing and intimate movie, brilliantly acted, sensitively directed, and filled with lovingly accurate observation of that greatest of movie sets, our cultural and personal battlefield, New York City…. As a social chronicle, the film is flawless.

“…. [The] scenes of Erica with women are the weakest in the film, and I suspect that Mazursky's heart isn't in them. He knows that female solidarity comforts an abandoned woman, so he doesn't poke fun at it, but sisterhood just isn't real for him--not the way encounters between men and women, no matter how brief are real.

“Once these encounters [between men and women] begin, the movie comes brilliantly to life….

“Jill Clayburgh is perfect for this part of the movie. Her dominant characteristic is an appealing vagueness. She's tall and leggy, with a sensational long back, but there's something shapeless and colorless about her face; the complexion is whitish; the gray-green eyes, usually at half-mast, aren't quite in focus, and her nasal voice wanders alarmingly, like a bagpipe running out of wind. In earlier movies Clayburgh has been charming, though she's often had trouble finding the center of her emotions; Mazursky is the first director to use that indecisiveness dramatically. Staring in a mirror, the abandoned Erica tries to compose her face into a mask of woe, but she cracks up and makes a stupid joke; she knows perfectly well that she's not a tragic heroine. What she feels is a generalized sense of loss. Questioned about her emotions, this large, floppy, unaggressive woman gives way to bewildered tears. She had no idea life could be so painful. From there on, Erica's pain and anger are the only emotions she can be clear about; when she puts down those men, she momentarily knows who she is.

“Clayburgh's skittishness gives the sex scenes a startling comic tension. Has there ever been a funnier or more accurate one-night stand than Erica's encounter with Charlie, the "promising" wood sculptor and established SoHo sex hustler?…. Clayburgh, stripped to her panties, has her finest moment--a nervous, pigeon-toed run across Gorman's loft to turn out the lights…. [review cut]

“…. [Mazursky's] made Saul [Alan Bates] such a grizzled, vital Adam that all of nature seems to call out for union with Erica. Yet [Mazursky] respects her tremulous, unformed desire to find herself. Erica resists, and at the end she's left spinning around in the wind, trying to hold on to one of Saul's huge paintings in the SoHo streets. She's gone from jogging to spinning--from secure and pointless routine to a whirligig of identities and possibilities. It's a tentative, inconclusive ending that will probably satisfy no one, particularly women. Feminists will wonder why Erica hasn't taken greater control of her life; divorcees will be sore because they've never met a man like Saul Kaplan, much less had the opportunity to turn him down.

“However…., [g]iven the character of Erica as developed through the movie, her unwillingness to throw in her lot with such a powerful man as Saul makes perfect sense. As I said earlier, it's Mazursky's conception of the character that limits the film.... [I]f she weren't so well off, she wouldn't have much time to dither about her identity, and the last third of the movie might have been more decisive … [I]f [Mazursky] had taken her much further into trouble, kept her at the extremes of her emotions, he might have ended with a radiant affirmation rather than a large question mark. But at least he's asking the right questions.”

David Denby
Boston Phoenix, April 4, 1978

Stanley Kauffmann

“And now [Mazursky] thinks that Jill Clayburgh is an engrossing screen figure. Clayburgh was passable in Semi-Tough, where she was one of a trio of jokesters, and anyway Burt Reynolds was carrying the personality ball; but this picture is supposed to take place within the recesses of her soul, she is supposed to contain the story. And she is only a slick mannequin, seemingly made of chrome. I have the feeling that if you flicked her with your finger, she would ping.

“But even if the leading role had been played by a woman who can command interest--say, Jane Fonda at her best, even her second-best--the film still would be loaded with clichés, old and new….

“…. [T]his picture carries a buried insult to its ostensible subject. Finally, the picture says that what a woman really needs is a man: that's what will solve her identity problems and all her other problems. The New Woman's troubles are cleared away just like Joan Crawford's--by Mr. Right. Is that all there is to the New Selfhood? Most young women apparently still like living with men… But I doubt that many of them look for a man to take the burden of independence off their shoulders, as the old mythology has it and as, under the mod glitz, Mazursky persists….”

Stanley Kauffmann
New Republic, March 11, 1978
[But it’s okay with, say, The Goodbye Girl?]