A lower-key Marty for the 1990s, Only the Lonely is a charming and well-observed romantic comedy about a single Chicago cop (John Candy) trying to break free from his smothering Irish mom (Maureen O’Hara, in her welcome return to the screen after 20 years). Performances are delightfully true and never descend into bathos or cheap sentiment.
O’Hara uses her native Dublin accent and her feistiest no-nonsense style to convey the mean-spirited, bigoted personality of Rose Muldoon. This flinty immigrant widow, who’s bullied her son all his life, routinely spews out invective against Italians, Greeks, Poles and Jews.
Candy is a sweet-natured fellow who yearns for something more out of life but is afraid to ask for it. His best friend (James Belushi) and his brother (Kevin Dunn) want him to stay single and everyone treats him like an overgrown baby. When he meets a shy mortuary cosmetician (Ally Sheedy), Candy begins to assert himself in ways that drive his mother to new lows of tart-tongued nastiness.
The neighborhood is enjoyably populated with such serio-comic types as the silver-tongued denizens of O’Neill’s pub (Bert Remsen and Milo O’Shea), and O’Hara’s devastatingly sexy next-door neighbor (Anthony Quinn) whom she scorns as a ‘Typical Greek’ for besieging her with passion: ‘Come to my bed. You will never leave.’