“Sacrifice is dated, mother. You don’t reform a man; he just drags you down.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
As with every ensemble film, some vignettes in The Group are inevitably more compelling than others; we find ourselves wishing to know more about certain characters — and much less about others. Shirley Knight turns in a nuanced, compassionate performance as the do-gooding Polly, but her travails (which include an affair with a psycho-analyzed communist, and a mentally ill father) don’t do her justice. Elizabeth Hartman as Priss is equally compelling, and we definitely wish her character had more screentime. Libby — an amusingly clueless character in the book — is, unfortunately, portrayed with annoying smugness by Jessica Walters, and is easily the most irritating of “the group”. Kay’s failing marriage to an alcoholic philanderer (Larry Hagman, perfectly cast, but lacking nuance) is the primary thread of the story, but her character’s gradual transformation is less than convincing.
Others in the group barely register at all. Lakey (Bergen in her film debut) is only on-screen for a few minutes at best, and her “surprise revelation” near the end of the movie goes absolutely nowhere. Pokey provides comic relief and little else, while Helena is merely the film’s convenient narrator. Even so, the film is at least 1/2 hour too long. While screenwriter Sidney Buchman tries his best to do justice to all the subplots in the story, eight protagonists is — ultimately — too many.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: