Little Romance, A (1979)

“I used to think, maybe a long time ago, like — like in the time of the pharaohs or Louis the 13th — that there was somebody made just perfect for me.”

Synopsis:
A precocious teen (Diane Lane) living in Paris with her self-absorbed mother (Sally Kellerman) and kind stepfather (Arthur Hill) meets a young movie-lover (Thelonious Bernard), and the two like-minds immediately bond. With the help of an elderly widow (Laurence Olivier), they make plans to kiss at a certain spot in Venice during sunset — but can they successfully elude their parents?

Genres:

Review:
Reviews of this youthful romantic adventure, directed by George Roy Hill and taking place on the pictureseque streets of Paris and canals of Venice, have been decidedly mixed over the years, with some considering it a personal favorite, but the New York Times calling it “so ponderous it seems almost mean-spirited.” While elements of the screenplay verge on caricature — particularly Kellerman’s infatuation with a narcissistic movie director (David Dukes), and a pair of clueless American tourists (Andrew Duncan and Claudette Sutherland) who show up in the last portion of the film — I’ll admit to being intrigued by Lane, and completely caught up in her desire for meaningful interactions with a peer who “gets her”. Her loyal friendship with a flibbertigibbet schoolmate (Semple) helps to humanize her as someone more interested in quirkiness and following her own path than anything else, and it’s easy to relate to how isolated she feels being forced to live wherever her flighty mother’s whims (and latest marital decisions) take her. Bernard’s performance is a bit rough around the edges, but he’s believable as a movie-obsessed teen who knows a good catch when he sees one — and he treats Lane with appropriate respect and classiness. (See? Classic movies do teach you something!) Georges Delerue’s score is lovely, and the on-location sets are charming.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Diane Lane as Lauren
  • Ashby Semple as Natalie
  • Good use of location shooting in Paris and Venice
  • George Delerue’s score

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended (by me, at least). Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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2 Responses to “Little Romance, A (1979)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call this film “mean-spirited”, I wouldn’t call it particularly much good either.

    In my view, nothing in this film really works to a satisfying degree. But the script is basically weak, so the film becomes a matter of at least milking it for its ‘romance’ potential …which is wanting.

    Lane may be quite cute and may be somewhat engaging but her character appears to be in something of a vacuum; Bernard is only sometimes on her level in this ‘relationship’ – he can also, by turns, be put off and distracted. Personally, I wanted to believe the romance between them but the evidence wasn’t really convincing me.

    Kellerman is a particular problem in the film because her character appears to be a complete idiot (i.e., not only does she invite her lover to a home party but she flirts with him openly in front of family members – even feeding him cake while laughing gaily!; is she insane?). It makes no sense at all that husband Arthur Hill would want so desperately to save this marriage.

    As for Olivier …he’s not as hammy here as in other places (he has a few interesting moments), but he’s still rather hammy.

    Probably most disappointing is the fact that the entire film hinges on a particularly romantic ‘crescendo’; the film builds and builds to what is supposed to be a soul-shaking moment …but once we get there it’s like the pay-off has been edited from the film. We simply shift suddenly to – what?, the next day or something? – when the young lovers are going to go their separate ways.

    It’s kind of like, at that point in the film, everyone has kind of just given up or gotten bored.

  2. I think you guys are sort of missing the point with this one in so far as the film is told from the perspective of the children, so the adults are seen as idiots.

    I have just got the US DVD of this so will give it a view having not seen it since HBO circa 1980, when I was 13 and it was a favourite. Back then I loved it despite the subject (romcom) not being my bag at the time at all.

    Perhaps being a more cynical 50 year old will mean I don’t rate it anymore, but we shall see.

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