Melanie (1982)

“You are not fit to raise a son in this world.”

Melanie Poster

Synopsis:
When her husband (Don Johnson) takes off with their son (Jamie Dick), an illiterate southern woman (Glynnis O’Connor) follows them to California, where she befriends a troubled musician (Burton Cummings) and begins to build a new life for herself, while attempting to regain custody of her son.

Genres:

Review:
Glynnis O’Connor’s fine lead performance is the primary reason to check out this well-meaning but ultimately disappointing character study about a young woman struggling to overcome the stigma of illiteracy. While there’s potential here for a fascinating glimpse into the world as experienced by someone denied the opportunity to read or write, the script places Melanie (O’Connor) time and again in situations designed for dramatic potential rather than realism. We learn far too little about Melanie’s background in rural Jasper, Arkansas before she’s off on a road trip to California, conveniently following up on an invitational postcard from a friend (Trudy Young) living in Hollywood with her drug-addled musician boyfriend (Burton Cummings). Before you can blink an eye, the sack-dress-clad Melanie has undergone a dramatic physical transformation, and manages to so thoroughly impress Cummings’ manager (Paul Sorvino) with her motherly instincts (by treating his son nicely for a few minutes) that he immediately offers to let her come and live with him (!).

Will romantic entanglements ensue? Absolutely — though again, the script is too undeveloped for the situation as played out to feel anything but contrived. With that said, the performances by O’Connor, Cummings, and Sorvino are all top notch. Cummings — an enormously popular Canadian rock star who I’ll admit I knew nothing about before watching this film — gives a refreshingly natural performance; while his character isn’t anyone we feel sympathy for, he’s at least highly believable. The scenes in which he struggles to compose new songs come across as particularly authentic — and it helps that the score is filled with his catchy ballads. Fans of his music will certainly want to locate a copy of this film, the only one he made — but it’s otherwise only must-see for O’Connor fans.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Glynnis O’Connor as Melanie
    Melanie O'Connor
  • Burton Cummings as Rick
    Melanie Cummings
  • Paul Sorvino as Walter
    Melanie Sorvino
  • A fine score (by Cummings)

Must See?
No. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Melanie (1982)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must – but an ok movie, for the natural performances.

    Peary is clearly enamored of O’Connor – does he list ALL of her films? If not, it certainly seems that way. The main problem with that is…in a sense, if you’ve seen one O’Connor performance, you’ve seen them all. That’s not to say she’s a bad actress – but the major part of her career fell victim to type-casting; there’s a decided sameness to the material offered to and accepted by her. So it’s hard to come to one of her films expecting much that’s new.

    ‘Melanie’ is certainly watchable – and I did appreciate the element of Cummings’ heart being changed through knowing the main character – but it’s not much more than ok.

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