Modern Romance (1981)

Modern Romance (1981)

“One, two, three! And-I-don’t-even-miss-her, two, three!”

After breaking up with his beautiful girlfriend Mary (Kathryn Harrold) for the umpteenth time, self-absorbed Hollywood editor Robert Cole (Albert Brooks) wallows in self-pity before trying to woo Mary back.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Albert Brooks Films
  • Dating
  • George Kennedy Films
  • Los Angeles
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Winning Him/Her Back

Response to Peary’s Review:
Critical opinions seem squarely divided on this early romantic comedy by Albert Brooks, which Peary inexplicably labels as “often brilliant” and “much underrated”. One’s ability to enjoy Modern Romance rests on how easily you can relate to the lead character — Peary finds him “sympathetic yet obnoxious”, but I think he is, quite simply, insufferable. Indeed, it’s impossible to have any sympathy for someone as “completely oblivious to his awful traits” as Robert is; one can’t help comparing him with Woody Allen, but at least Allen’s characters always exhibited a healthy dose of neurotic self-deprecation.

Kathryn Harrold does a fine job as Robert’s girlfriend, but it’s difficult to enjoy her performance simply because we can’t figure out why she’d want to be with this loser in the first place — let alone after the way we see him treating her again and again. The only mildly enjoyable scenes focus on Robert’s work as a film editor for real-life director James L. Brooks — yet these have nothing to do with the primary story, and could easily be from a different movie entirely. Read DVD Savant’s review instead of Peary’s to get a much better indication of what you’re likely in store for with this clunker.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Bruno Kirby as Robert’s long-suffering friend and colleague
  • A clever inside look at the politics of filmmaking and editing
  • Robert being pressured into buying far too much running gear
  • A few mildly amusing moments between Robert and Mary — such as when Robert eyes Mary’s revealing knit dress with jealous disapproval, and tells her it makes her nipples look like eyeballs

Must See?
No. While some would argue this is an essential film in Brooks’s early oeuvre, I can’t in good conscience recommend it as must-see viewing for anyone but fans of Brooks.


One thought on “Modern Romance (1981)

  1. First viewing – not must-see, and rather in agreement with the assessment.

    Brooks’ persona in his own movies does tend to be insufferable, more cringe-inducing than funny. (Oddly, I’ve not been bothered by him much as an actor in other people’s films and, as such, he seems to have gotten better with age. Of his own work, I kind of liked ‘Mother’, but that had more to do with Debbie Reynolds’ refreshingly deadpan performance than anything else.)

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