Amiable talents of Walter Matthau and Jill Clayburgh make First Monday in October a mildly engaging talkfest in which all serious issues serve as window dressing for an almost-romantic comedy.
Rumpled and as likeable as ever, Matthau here portrays the court’s ‘great dissenter,’ an individualistic civil libertarian a la the late William O. Douglas. In theory he greatly welcomes the appointment of a woman, but his hair stands on end when he learns that America’s first female Supreme Court justice is the arch-conservative Clayburgh, ‘the Mother Superior of Orange County.’
Decorum of the widow’s installment into the men’s club atmosphere of the court provokes smiles, if not big laughs, but it’s all a prelude to the civilized sparks which fly when the two tangle over two major cases on the docket.
Scripters, working from their own popular play, have opted for the light treatment, with issues of the day merely providing a means for this odd couple to (sort of) get together.