Entertainment Weekly - 06/24/2005
"Reynolds brings his casual charm..."
In STARTING OVER, 1970s heartthrob Burt Reynolds is wryly cast against type as Phil Potter, a mild-mannered husband and writer in this light-hearted comedy. Reluctantly forced into the role of bachelor when his songstress wife Jessica (Candice Bergen) calls it quits, Phil must essentially start from scratch in the social realm. Reynolds's comic timing is dead-on in this good-humored look at marital collapse and the trials of making a new start. Introduced to wary school teacher Marilyn (Jill Clayburgh), Phil has a chance to put the pieces back together and show his charm, but his new-found self-confidence is challenged anew when ex Jessica comes back in the picture.
This lighthearted look at divorce and the trials of making a new start deftly translates Dan Wakefield's novel to screen. Phil Potter (Burt Reynolds) leads a settled life with wife Jessica (Candice Bergen) that is ends abruptly when she leaves him to focus on her songwriting career. Retreating to Boston and the support of his brother (Charles Durning) and wife, Phil is introduced to Marilyn (Jill Clayburgh), a wary pre-school teacher who has seen her share of men on the rebound. Phil and Marilyn match wits and experiences in a clever rapport that shows they may very well be made for each other, but the reappearance of Jessica thows havoc into the mix. What might become melodrama is handled with expert comic flair by director Alan J. Pakula, who displays his gifts an "actor's director" as evidenced by Reynolds's subtle comic performance. STARTING OVER is more akin to the sharp-witted romantic comedies of the 1930s than with more sober dramas such as KRAMER VS. KRAMER (directed by Robert Benton)--another 1970s film on the theme of divorce.
STARTING OVER is based on the novel by Dan Wakefield.
STARTING OVER is the first American comedy shot by Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist, known mostly for his collaboration with director Ingmar Bergman.
Both Jill Claybergh (Best Actress) and Candice Bergen (Best Supporting Actress) were nominated for Ocars for their performances in STARTING OVER.
STARTING OVER is one of the few Burt Reynolds films of the 1970s to highlight the subtle comedy of which he is capable yet less known. Previously he'd starred in DELIVERANCE and SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (among others) in quite diverse roles. Later he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the film BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997) in which he plays a low-key, compassionate porn impresario--for which role and film he was reportedly displeased to be recognized by the academy.
Screenwriter James L. Brooks also wrote AS GOOD AS IT GETS and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, both of which received Academy Awards in several categories--the latter for Best Screenplay and Best Director (both going to Brooks).
Brooks has also directed other popular, successful films such as BROADCAST NEWS and AS GOOD AS IT GETS.