The Four Seasons Movie Review

Back in the '70s, Alan Alda gained a rep as a "sensitive man," a pro-ERA, Marlo Thomas-loving, abortion-rights-advocating bleeding heart. The Four Seasons, written, directed, and starring Alda at the peak of his M*A*S*H fame, is his feminist apotheosis. This sparkling comedy tracking the travails of three upscale middle-aged couples as they vacation together four times a year (accompanied by a vibrant Vivaldi soundtrack, natch) is told from a distinctly female, and feminist, perspective. Alda is really in touch with his softer side.

Jack and Kate Burroughs (Alda and Carol Burnett), Danny and Claudia Zimmer (Jack Weston and Rita Moreno), and Nick and Anne Callan (Len Cariou and Sandy Dennis) head off for the first of their four annual trips in spring, but it's not going to be a good time. The fragile and seemingly unstable Anne announces that Nick has dumped her and that a divorce is imminent. The women rally around their long-time friend while the men stand back and try to avoid emoting at all.

By the time of a summer yachting excursion in the Virgin Islands, Anne has been replaced by the very young and very beautiful Ginny (Bess Armstrong), who parades around the boat in her bikini, much to the dismay of the still seething Claudia and Kate. While Jack and Danny seem jealous as hell of Nick, the two women take every opportunity to run Ginny down with vicious zingers that really sting. Their anger at Nick turns to hilarity when they can't help but overhear the newlyweds' noisy lovemaking in the crowded confines of the yacht. Giggle fits ensue as the Burroughs and the Zimmers begin to ponder their own mid-life crises.

In the fall, the couples journey to a leafy college campus where a few of their kids are studying. This time around, the comic set piece is a soccer game on the quad, where the not-so-fit men try to outmatch each other in a transparent attempt to impress the cheerleading Ginny. When Jack injures himself, Claudia hasn't a bit of sympathy for him, the big jerk.

When the snow falls, the couples reunite in a claustrophobic snowbound cabin, which, given the group dynamics, is probably not a good idea. All the unsaid insults and unexpressed emotions bubble to the surface and explode in a long scene that's hilarious, furious, and touching all at the same time. It's Ginny who becomes the voice of reason, shredding the other women for their cruelty and vindictiveness and their unwillingness to embrace her in a spirit of sisterhood. As the wisecracking Claudia remarks, "I wonder what other people do on their vacations."

Alda's all-star cast has a ball with his sharp material. Moreno shines brightest, and her interplay with the sad-sack Weston are reminiscent of the classic bickering between Fred and Ethel Mertz. Burnett, too, does a fine job of wrestling with her menopausal demons and taking Alda's Jack to task when he needs it. Never sophomoric and always witty, The Four Seasons is right on the money, especially for viewers who may be edging away from 40 on their way to 50.


The Four Seasons Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, 1981


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