Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Just Between Friends (1986) and Stepmom (1998)

The husband, the wife, and the other woman is the theme of the films under review this Tuesday, for Overlooked Films, Audio & Video over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

Take a good look at the two posters. You’ll notice that the names of the male actors appear after those of the female actors. In fact, you’ll also notice that the male actors are nowhere in the main picture frame. That is because the films are more about the women and less about the men. Yet, the men are very much there, though, almost by accident. But, take them out and there would be neither a story nor a film in either case. 

The men are caught between two women who love them (or loved them) and who stake a legitimate claim to their families, their children, and their future. It may seem as if Just Between Friends and Stepmom is about the proverbial “husband, wife, and the other woman’ and while they are to a considerable extent, the films are really about the relationship between the women and their coming to terms with the reality that they love (or loved) the same men—their lives entwined by a twist of fate.

The relationship that Holly Davis (Mary Tyler Moore) and Sandy Dunlap (Christine Lahti) share in Just Between Friends is identical to the one that Jackie Harrison (Susan Sarandon) and Isabel Kelly (Julia Roberts) share in Stepmom.

While a tragedy helps close friends Holly and Sandy bury their differences and come together in Just Between friends, the terminal illness of Jackie and her gracious acceptance of her ex-husband’s girlfriend, Isabel, helps the two women bond in Stepmom. On her part Isabel accepts Jackie’s natural instinct to raise her children the way she wants and tries to fit into that role as best as she can.
 

Chip Davis (Ted Danson) and Luke Harrison (Ed Harris) are two fine men, caring husbands (ex in the case of Luke), and doting fathers. Chip loves his wife Holly in Just Between Friends while Luke is considerate towards his ailing ex-wife Jackie who lives with him, their two children, and his new flame, Isabel, in Stepmom.

Directors Allan Burns and Chris Columbus handle the relationships between the two pairs of women with great sensitivity. There is mutual respect, understanding, sympathy, and even compassion between the women. For instance, in a Thanksgiving scene in Stepmom (I think), Isabel is about to click a family photo of Jackie, Luke and their two children when Jackie beckons Isabel to join them. Isabel sits with the family on the couch and is pleasantly surprised when Jackie puts an arm around her, as all five of them smile into the camera.

Just Between Friends and Stepmom are two very nice films and what makes them a touch more special is the excellent casting, especially Mary Tyler Moore and Susan Sarandon as the wronged wives who never actually grieve over the cruel blow fate deals them.

Recommended

19 comments:

  1. I saw both of these. I was a bit disappointed in Ted leaving Mary though. Seems like the wrong move to me.

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    1. Patti, I don't remember much about JUST BETWEEN FRIENDS for I saw it a long time ago. I remembered the theme, though. Hence, I restricted that part of the review to a bare minimum.

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    2. If I remember correctly, he didn't leave her. For fear of spoilers, I won't say more than that but given the circumstances, that choice wasn't made or followed through. Depends on how you look at it I guess.

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  2. Great juxtaposition Prashant - STEPMOM is very glossy and smoothly made but I think JUST BETWEEN FRIENDS is the better of the two - especially the Sam Waterston character. Cheers mate - hadn't though abiout that film in a very, very long time ...

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    1. Thank you, Sergio. I agree the latter is better of the two and I like your description of STEPMOM. From what I can remember I think Mary Tyler Moore and Christine Lahti are natural in their respective character roles from the time they make their acquaintance at the aerobics class.

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  3. It's good to see good actors in such meaty roles.

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    1. Charles, both films have their share of "good actors" and, apart from the women, you can't go wrong with Danson and Harris. They play their parts well.

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  4. I could not bring myself to see these movies because the very idea of everybody getting along in these sorts of situations raises my hackles.

    I was a wronged wife once upon a time and I can tell you the last thing in the world I would have wanted was to be friends with the other woman or for that matter, even to have met the creature.

    No thanks.

    Obviously I still have anger issues. Ha!

    Having said that, I still enjoyed reading your post, Prashant. :)

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that, Yvette. I can understand why these films wouldn't go down with most wronged wives and they do have every right to be angry. You can't help feeling bad for the plight of Mary Tyler Moore and Susan Sarandon.

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  5. I've not seen either of these Prashant. Sounds like the type of thing my daughter would make me watch. I'd protest but probably enjoy them! I think Susan Sarandon is a superb actress.

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    1. Col, I agree about Sarandon being a good actress. I liked her lawyer's role in THE CLIENT. The films are not bad though a touch depressing as far as happy families go.

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  6. Prashant, Both are good movies. Indeed I liked Susan in Stepmom. In Bollywood, some years back, remake of Stepmom was released - 'We are Family'.

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    1. Hi Mallika, I don't remember the Bollywood version of STEPMOM though I recall seeing remakes of several Hollywood films like YOURS, MINE AND OURS and SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, to name just two glaring imitations.

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  7. Very euro and probably French. The premise would not work for a reality show. The women would have to be full of injured pride and viciously hateful to each other.

    Just Between Friends was written by a man, and I'm thinking that even though it was marketed as a touchy-feely "women's picture" it's also a kind of a male fantasy to be loved by two women who get along so well.

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    1. Ron, now that you mention it, there have been one or two reality shows with a similar theme on Indian television, in Hindi, of course. Besides, Hindi soap operas are often centered around the newly-wed wife who must live through a nightmare, with her cruel in-laws and the other woman. Real tearjerkers. I don't recall JUST BETWEEN FRIENDS as well as I'd have liked to (for this post). Perhaps, I'll see it again.

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  8. I saw Stepmom (and enjoyed it) but have not seen Just Between Friends. Both movies have some good actors. So I will give the other one a try someday. I have got to agree with Yvette about having no desire to meet the other woman (from either direction) but with children involved it makes a difference. My brother's ex-wife (one of them) is very close to all of our family because of the ties and the step-children and shared children.

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    1. Tracy, I usually watch films for the sheer fun of it unless they have a certain historical value and a lot of stuff, like the common theme in these movies, don't actually happen in real life. In fact, the opposite of it would be true. The "feel good" aspect in such a film, depending on how you look at it, doesn't outlast the length of the film itself.

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  9. I love, love, love Just Between Friends. Still have an old DVD copy of it somewhere. Never watched Stepmom. I'm not all that big of a Julia Roberts fan.

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    1. Keishon, I'm not a Julia Roberts fan either although I liked her character in AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS and NOTTING HILL. Good entertaining films both.

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