The first film ever made based upon a Saul Bellow novel, Seize the Day can boast of earnest performances and intent, but is swamped in obviousness and the broadness of its brush strokes. Overwrought piece was made for television.
Having lost his job as a salesman, disappointed his girl friend and allowed himself to be bled dry by his estranged wife, Tommy (Robin Williams in a ‘serious’ starring role), who’s pushing 40, returns to New York City to appeal to his father in an attempt at a new start.
Tommy finds heartlessness everywhere he turns. His father (Joseph Wiseman) is a successful doctor forever disappointed that his son didn’t follow in his footsteps. The only one to take a positive interest in poor Tommy is Doc (Jerry Stiller), a physician of great alleged healing powers who in fact spends most of his time playing the commodities market.
The world of power here, in 1956, is made up exclusively of crusty old Jewish men who play cards and hang out at the steam bath, and it is not a pretty picture. Williams throws himself entirely into his character, and his desperation is palpable. Fielder Cook’s direction is extremely literal, and lack of modulation is a major problem.