Chapter Two (1979)
Director: Robert Moore
Starring: Marsha Mason, James Caan, Joe Bologna, Valerie Harper
6 out of 10.
Neil Simon adapted his own semi-biographical play about widower George (Caan) who marries Jennie (Mason), a divorcee, a few months after his first wife's death and how his memories of her imperils his new marriage. Mason's earnest performance keeps the movie afloat despite it being almost a clone of her previous turn in The Goodbye Girl. She manages to make Jennie a multi-faceted character that can be sweet and acquiescent but also cynical, forceful and confident. She also gets to deliver the best lines including a soliloquy that is akin to a declaration of girl power. Caan is a capable dramatic actor but not an effective comedic performer. He gives a wooden performance and fails to make his character sympathetic. However, it is not completely Caan's fault and Moore's uneven direction shares the blame by failing to show what really makes George tick. Bologna is a stand-out as Leo, George's brother, who urges George to go on blind dates but also thinks his new marriage is premature. Harper also registers well as Faye, Jennie's best friend, who is keen on having an affair to spice up her life. Mason earned her third Oscar best actress nomination for basically playing herself (she was married to Neil Simon from 1973 to 83). It could have been better but fans of Mason will regard it more fondly.
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