Filmed in Toronto and New York by Procter & Gamble, TeleVest, Atlantis Films Ltd., Stewart Pictures and Columbia TriStar Television. Executive producer, Allyn Stewart; producers, George W. Perkins, Kathleen Turner; director, John David Coles; writer, Susan Sandler; camera, Alar Kivilo; editor, Angelo Corrao; production designer, Edward Pisoni; art director, Vlasta Svoboda; sound, Douglas Ganton; music, Micky Erbe, Maribeth Solomon. #Cast: Kathleen Turner, Colm Feore, Faith Prince, Julie Khaner, Sarah Paulson, Megan Bouchard, Krista Marie Bonura, Roger McKeen, John Gilbert, Carlo Rota, Arturo Fresolone, Ron Gabriel, Margaret Ozols, Ben Lin, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Vivian Reis, Frank Girardeau, Alison Sealy-Smith, Tanja Jacobs, Maggie Huculak, Diana Reis, Ian Alden, John Stead, Nigel Bennett, Judith Scott, Edward Heeley, Karina Arroyave, Nicky Guadagni, Marilyn Boyle, Howard Jerome, Angela Moore, Monique Mojica. Friends at Last” tells a much more common and much less compelling story than the creators would have us believe; the rendering, though competent, doesn’t take up the slack in the material. If viewers hold on for the first two-thirds they’ll be rewarded with some tears, but the vidpic’s message to women is: Discover the bitch within and your husband will eventually appreciate you — unfortunately, it’ll be too late.
The problem is that Fanny and Philip go through a fairly routine divorce, which isn’t enough to trigger the intended surprise when they become friends. The falling-out isn’t especially bitter and, structurally, the friendship comes about 10 minutes too late. Worse, the vidpic relies on a terminal illness to stir up feeling.
Scripter Susan Sandler keeps the psychology at arm’s length. Without more insight into motivation, there’s nothing to make up for the slow pace and lack of action under John David Coles’ direction. They and the producers let things get said instead of depicted: After the marriage disintegrates, we see symptoms and reactions rather than causes.
Philip is basically a selfish rat, yet he gets redemption and Fanny doesn’t; what really rekindles their relationship is his dry spell as a writer. Any pretense at being a feminist drama is undercut when Philip is let off the hook.
Faith Prince is used sparingly as Fanny’s feminist neighbor. (Where is she when her friend is ill? The implication is that you have to choose between your best male and female friend.) Affecting performances are offered by Megan Bouchard and Sarah Paulson as the Conlons’ daughter Diana at ages 11 and 21, respectively.
Producers tread a fine line with locations. Toronto doesn’t always cut it, especially when a bit player (as a New York housewife) has a thick Canadian accent. The attempt to depict 20-year time period with hairdos and the odd wide collar is a wash.