Modern Romance (1981) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for sexuality, language and nudity
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Albert Brooks, Kathryn Harrold, Bruno Kirby, James L. Brooks, George Kennedy, Bob Einstein, Meadowlark Lemon
Director: Albert Brooks
Screenplay: Albert Brooks, Monica Mcgowan Johnson
Although I'm giving Modern Romance a marginal recommendation, I should probably limit that recommendation to those who are inclined to like Albert Brooks (Defending Your Life, The In-Laws) and his hapless, neurotic comedic style. If you do, it's moderately funny -- not exactly hilarious, but it has just enough good laughs to make it ultimately worthwhile.
Brooks plays Robert Cole, working as a film editor in Hollywood, who struggles maintaining an on-again, off-again relationship with his girlfriend, Mary (Harrold, Raw Deal). After their latest squabble, Robert decides to call it off for good this time, or so he thinks, as once they are separated, he cannot get Mary off of his mind. Struggling with missing her, as well as jealous she may have moved on with her life, he calls her house, her job, and makes frequent passes by her house to see just what she's up to, and who she might be seeing now.
Modern Romance is nothing terribly novel, and doesn't really seem to have any real point of view, although there are some pithy insights that do emerge from time to time within the modest story. If there is a major weakness that keeps it from ever gaining momentum, it's the need to show Brooks' life at work for extended periods of time, which is wholly unrelated to the story of this man and woman trying to overcome their problems communicating. At the same time, these moments provide some of the film's funniest bits, which leads me to conclude that Brooks would have been better off concentrating on only one of the aspects for this film, and saving the other for a future project.
Needless to say, if you don't find Brooks to be funny, this will probably be an excruciating experience to sit through, as he mopes and whines endlessly about his love life for the bulk of the movie. Modern Romance is a film that treats jealousy and insecurity as signs of ones love, and to a certain extent, there is truth to it. However, mistrust and accusations are also the main reason why these two lovers can never really get it together, and one gets the feeling they just don't know how to love one another without problems arising. We want happiness for both parties, but in the end, if they do manage to get together again, is it really a happy ending?
©2004 Vince Leo