Saturday, October 1, 2011

Crazy 80's Project: Making Love

I wanted to hate Making Love and its safe, dated handling of a then-controversial plot (a married man upsets his comfortable upper-class life by having an affair with an openly gay man), but a funny thing happened on the way to a perfectly predictable and disposable film. In between the cheesy moments of pure marital bliss between Zach (Michael Ontkean) and Claire (the fabulous Kate Jackson), the scenes of Gay Life Circa 1982, which was apparently a lot more masculine and rugged than it is nearly 20 years later, and the ho-hum, middle-of-the-road easiness the film embraces for much of its runtime, there's something surprisingly refreshing about Making Love. Honestly, there's nothing even slightly offensive about Making Love, which is surprising since even a full decade later Philadelphia was far more uncomfortable with its sexuality and had much less to lose. This is both to Making Love's credit and a knock against it because it almost refuses to raise the stakes beyond the minimum necessary to move the story forward, which matches its indistinct Movie of the Week style. But the choice to have both Claire and Bart (Harry Hamlin), the man Zach has the affair with, speak long monologues directly into the camera like a documentary subject lends Making Love a touch more honesty than it probably deserves. Jackson and Hamlin deliver these monologues with the same delusions, idiosyncrasies and misguided conviction that ordinary people would (Bart claims he loves being single and unattached but something in his manner suggests otherwise; Claire naively thinks her marriage can still work even though her husband wants to bone dudes now). It's not especially groundbreaking--we're not talking Bergman-levels of self-examination--but it's enough to turn what could have been a turgid, past-its-prime piece of fluff cinema into something worth thinking of at some point in the future. Besides, how can you hate on an 80's film where the gay main characters neither contract HIV or die outright by the final frame? C+

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