Writer James Duff, poking around a tale of a wandering spouse, scrutinizes the pieces before putting them back together. Besides showcasing the expert talents of Meredith Baxter and Swoosie Kurtz, Duff presents a parade of duo scenes, sly ripostes and a well-structured drama; it may be soapy, but it’s smart soap.
Amanda Nelson (Baxter), married and the mother of two teen sons, lives the ideal suburban life with husband Rob (John Terry). She and her lifelong best friend, Joan (Kurtz), widowed and living with daughter Dana (Clare Carey), a college student, are planning a three-week European trip. Lawyer Rob is having a secret summer romance with Dana, who’s an intern in his office.
With the proposition laid out, Duff and astute director William Graham investigate what happens when Joan wanders into her living room and spots daughter Dana and Rob in an awkward situation. Amanda has to find out, and Joan knows it.
From then on, just about everyone but Rob gets a chance to glare. With the characters in pieces — after the parlor passion scene, Graham and Duff even have Joan pick up a broken figurine, in case no one gets the point — Duff works at reassembling. Scruples are less at stake here than emotional release. Honor, integrity and truth aren’t important, no matter how much hand-wringing and shouting go on.
Duff, Graham and the cast build genuine individuals, and that’s what makes the vidpic work — in spite of Patrick Williams’ insipid score. Baxter and Kurtz cunningly play off each other, and Carey’s temptress (“You can’t control where your life is headed!”) shows clearly how everyone got in the mess. Terry is fine as the wayward mate, and John Livingston and Breckin Meyer as sons Paul and Eric are standouts.
There’s no retribution in this suburbia. The vidpic is a succession of well-written confrontations and planned tears, but they work.
Production looks sharp, and tech credits throughout are pro. Only real stumbler is the opening sheets-and-shoulder sequence of Rob and Dana; it looks like a perfume commercial.