Vast opportunities for unbearable quantities of sentimentality are fortunately squelched in Once Around, an intelligently engaging domestic comedy-drama. US debut by Lasse Hallstrom, director of the widely loved 1985 Swedish hit My Life As a Dog, keenly delineates how a woman finding happiness with a man for the first time paradoxically involves the serious deterioration of relations within her close-knit family.
Story is hung upon numerous family rituals – weddings, dinners, birthdays, baptisms, funerals – and opening sees thirty- something Holly Hunter being badgered about her marital prospects at the wedding of sister Laura San Giacomo.
Rebuffed by her b.f. (coproducer Griffin Dunne in a neat cameo), Hunter flees chilly Boston for the Caribbean, where she instantly is swept off her feet by irrepressible, vulgar, tireless, wealthy condominium salesman Richard Dreyfuss.
Brightest strategy is forcing the viewer to experience Hunter’s family’s acceptance of Dreyfuss. His sheer relentlessness darkens the mood and thickens the complexity of the situation, removing the film from the real of the feel-good Hollywood formula.
Danny Aiello (as the father), brightest in an excellent cast, invests all his scenes with evident emotional and mental deliberation. Hunter has many nice moments. San Giacomo and Gena Rowlands (as the mother) are very much on the money.