“I am no one-nighter — I’m a teacher!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Thankfully, Reynolds receives loving support from his brother (Charles Durning) and sister-in-law (Frances Sternhagen):
… who quickly set him up with a friend (Clayburgh) (though their “meet-cute” turns out to be embarrassingly awkward).
Naturally, things progress from there — and the entire film is spent showing how Reynolds and Clayburgh (who seems to be building on momentum from her quirky character in An Unmarried Woman) navigate both their mixed emotions and their strong attraction to one another.
While played for laughs at times, the overall tone of James L. Brooks’s screenplay rings realistic — at least until Bergen comes back into the picture and, inevitably, messes with their happiness.
We’ve been primed for this turn of events by others in the support group Reynolds is attending, whose members warn about the dangers of reconciliation with your ex-wife.
It’s really distressing to see Clayburgh hurt — and the remainder of the story plays out pretty painfully. While realistic about the vagaries of the human heart, Starting Over isn’t an easy ride; however, it’s worth a look for the strong lead performances (Reynolds is especially impressive in an off-type role).
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments: