Ash Wednesday is a jolting tearjerker about middle-age marital trauma, compounded by the superficial and spiritual uplift of cosmetic surgery. Elizabeth Taylor stars as the fiftyish wife of Henry Fonda, and Helmut Berger is featured as her brief Italian resort affair after the beautification process has restored her surface charm.
Script is essentially a three-act play, about evenly divided over the film’s 99 minutes. Act 1 is a gruesome, overdone series of ugly surgical scenes. Act 2 introduces Taylor to a new world of uncertain poise, while Act 3 precipitates the powerful, neatly restrained dissolution of her marriage to Fonda.
Taylor, fashionably gowned and bejewelled carries the film almost single-handedly. Fonda is excellent in his climatic appearance, an usually superb casting idea.