Moment by Moment (1978)

Moment by Moment (1978)

“I don’t even know what the word love means anymore.”

A young drifter (John Travolta) falls for an older wealthy woman (Lily Tomlin), and an unconventional romance ensues.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cross-Class Romance
  • John Travolta Films
  • Lily Tomlin Films
  • May-December Romance

This notoriously panned turkey (dubbed a Camp Classic in the back of Peary’s book) co-stars a hunky young John Travolta — fresh from his success in both Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978) — and Lily Tomlin, three years after her Oscar-nominated performance in Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975). Much of the film’s unintentional humor comes from the utterly improbable romantic pairing of these two lookalike actors — and not just because of their difference in age.

With no offense meant, Tomlin (whose partner, Jane Wagner, wrote and directed the movie) simply isn’t the most fetching of women, so it’s difficult to understand why a young hunk like Travolta would fall head over heels for her. Indeed, during the intriguing first half hour of the film, we’re convinced, much like Tomlin’s “Trisha”, that “Strip” (yes, that’s Travolta’s name here, and it’s good for a few laughs) must be a con-artist out to abuse her wealth; once it’s revealed that he’s genuinely in (puppy)-love with her, all disbelief must thereafter be suspended. With that said, Moment by Moment isn’t nearly as bad as its critics would have you believe: Tomlin is fine, if a tad one-note, as a depressed housewife whose husband has cheated on her, and Travolta is actually quite charming as a young drifter with no one to cling to but Trish. While the soaper storyline is utterly predictable (Tomlin is ashamed to be seen with Strip — who knew?!):

… you may be surprised to find yourself rooting for this unconventional couple by the end of the film.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Travolta as Strip

Must See?
No — but it’s not nearly as bad as its reputation would lead you to believe.


One thought on “Moment by Moment (1978)

  1. O…K…perhaps not…quite…as bad as its rep – cause critics threw everything at this.

    But it’s still pretty bad.

    Exhausting, implausible and laughable. But you won’t really be laughing.

    To be fair: early on in the film, Tomlin does fine work in one compelling sequence. We have just learned that she is about to divorce her husband. And he calls her, somewhat in sympathy. Several times, Tomlin, clearly in pain, puts her palm to the phone, then collects herself so her husband won’t sense how upset she is. It’s borderline sappy stuff but, shockingly, Tomlin makes it real.

    You can pretty much forget the rest of the movie. Unimaginative to the max (esp. as filmed…like old tv stuff). Writer/director Wagner appears to be doing some weird update of Sirk’s ‘All That Heaven Allows’ – in tandem with the older/younger thing substituting for the ‘no-no’-ness of something like gay sex (i.e., something that ‘dare not speak its name’, to show that there’s no difference).

    If only Tomlin and Wagner had envisioned it along the lines of a social commentary/parody blend, which is what it is screaming to be.

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