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Never Again

Starring Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Clayburgh; Bill Duke, Michael McKean and Sandy Duncan
Written, Produced and Directed by Eric Schaeffer

IN SHORT: Every romance you've ever seen. Every boring arthouse film you've ever suffered through. Times ten. [Rated R for strong sexual content including graphic dialogue, and for language. 95 minutes]

Fifty two year old Grace has just shipped her daughter off to college. Her husband has been gone for years, having traded her in on a much younger model. Her apartment is now very large and very empty and Grace is on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Her friends friends Elaine (Caroline Aaron) and Natasha (Sandy Duncan) know exactly what is wrong and exactly what she needs and, with a bit of pushing and prodding, get Grace to admit that she is, simply, horny as hell. She uses the Internet to vett strangers but the perfect date doesn't come up to her, uh, expectations and he dumps her. Grace is, simple, an emotional Titanic.

Her friends complain that there is "no movie about a woman over 35 who wants sex who doesn't get decapitated," which is just the first of enough references to how the movies portray life to constantly remind a viewer that it's a movie playing up on the screen. The whole point of going to the movies is to lose yourself in that screen and that's just the first of many mistakes that makes Never Again a ponderous, endless, almost impossible to endure waste of time in the dark.

On the flip side of the sexual coin is second generation bug exterminator Christopher (Jeffrey Tambor), who prefers women young enough to be his daughter. Christopher's best pal is Earl (Bill Duke), with whom he plays jazz in a downtown club. Having suffered through a year of hell when married, which netted a son he doesn't speak to, Christopher has decided that he will "never again" get into any long term relationship leading to anything resembling marriage. Besides, after 40 or so years of sex, Christopher thinks he might actually be gay. He's not sure he wants to go all the way so fast, so he devises a plan and decides to go for the middle ground, with a pro named Alex (Michael McKean) picked out of the back of a sleazy newspaper.

We're trying to tell as little of the details of this first Act, leading to the meeting of Grace and Christopher in a place as unexpected as it is clever, story-wise, because it is only this First Act that is worth planting for. From a bright beginning, Never Again quickly (sic) devolves into what film school thinkers will rave is a perfect motion picture. There is a theory of film making that believes that the highest goal imaginable is to recreate real life on screen as close to possible. We write a variation on this paragraph at least once a year and it all comes down to the fact that real life is boring. Film can magnify the ordinary ups and downs -- births, deaths, accidents which can send you to death's door and the like -- but if the story focusses on the mundane, well, you do the math.

Once Christopher and Grace pair up, sure there's hot sex and professed love but writer Schaeffer hits these same points again and again, giving us no variation on the stock story that's been predominant in movies since the beginning. The laffs in the latter half of the flick are cheap sight gags. The language is needless crude -- but Clayburgh tells us in the press notes that she likes to curse, so she lets forth a slew of 'em. Director Schaeffer fails to get any sort of emotional roll out of his actors and, once he starts dropping surprises on your head at the very end of the film, his work falls apart into the realm of ridiculousness and flat out crap.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Never Again, he would have paid . . .


It's a shame to waste two fine talents like Clayburgh and Tambor, but that's what Never Again has done. If you must rush to the theater, rush home after the first act. Better yet, wait a couple of months and rent the tape on the cheapest day of the week. Roll it until the pair couple up, then rewind and return.

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