Chapter Two (film)

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Chapter Two
Film Poster for Chapter Two.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Moore
Produced byRay Stark
Written byNeil Simon
Based onChapter Two
1978 play
by Neil Simon
StarringJames Caan
Marsha Mason
Valerie Harper
Joseph Bologna
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
CinematographyDavid M. Walsh
Edited byMichael A. Stevenson
Production
company
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • December 14, 1979 (1979-12-14)
Running time
124 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$30,000,000[1]

Chapter Two is a 1979 American Metrocolor romantic comedy film directed by Robert Moore, produced by Ray Stark, and based on Neil Simon's 1977 Broadway play of the same name. It has a 124-minute running time.

Production[edit]

An adaptation of a semi-autobiographical play by director-dramatist Neil Simon, the story conveys the coping and coupling of George, a recently widowed writer (played by James Caan), who is introduced by his press agent brother to Jennie, a just-divorced actress. Both are uncertain of whether to start dating so soon and George has recurring memories of his deceased wife. Jennie is portrayed by Simon's then-wife Marsha Mason, the inspiration for the character.[2] Caan said he made the film to earn some money while preparing to direct the 1980 film Hide in Plain Sight.[3]

Plot[edit]

George Schneider is an author living in New York City whose hours are occupied by his work, by softball games in the park and visits from his married brother Leo, a press agent who has been trying to introduce widower George to eligible women. George's emotions are still raw from the death of his wife, and he continues to be reminded of her.

George is given the phone number of a Jennie MacLaine, an actress Leo recently met through his friend Faye Medwick, and dials it accidentally while intending to call someone else. After an awkward exchange, he repeatedly phones Jennie to explain why he called, even though she makes it clear that she, too, has no interest in a blind date. George's persistence results in her accepting his proposal of a "five-minute" date, face-to-face. If that doesn't go well, he promises to leave her alone.

They meet at her apartment and immediately hit it off. Jennie is recently divorced from a professional football player. George asks her for a traditional date and she accepts. At dinner, he explains how Leo has set him up on a number of disastrous dates, so he now finds himself pleasantly surprised to be with someone like her.

Leo is pleased and so is Faye, whose own marriage is on the rocks. To their astonishment, George and Jennie decide to get married after knowing each other only a brief time. Leo feels his brother is going much too fast. Faye asks to use Jennie's apartment while the couple is away on their honeymoon.

An idyllic trip to the Caribbean follows and George and Jennie are very happy, at least until another tourist who recognizes him extends condolences about George's deceased wife. He immediately sinks into a depression that continues through their return to New York. At his home, Jennie's attempts to cheer up George are met with curt responses and insults. She returns to her own apartment to discover that Faye is having an affair there with Leo.

The marriage appears to be over almost as quickly as it began. George comes to his senses just in time, realizing how much he loves Jennie and how he doesn't want to lose her.

Cast[edit]

Reaction[edit]

James Caan later called the film a "nothing. Although I do like working with Marsha. I needed the work. I had been working on Hide in Plain Sight for two years. I didn't have any money."[4]

Box office performance[edit]

The film was a financial hit. It grossed $30 million at the domestic box office,[1] making it the 27th highest grossing film of 1979.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Chapter Two, however, was not a critical success. It received mixed reviews from critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 2 stars out of 4, writing "Chapter Two is called a comedy, maybe because that's what we expect from Neil Simon. It's not, although it has that comic subplot. It's a middlebrow, painfully earnest, overwritten exercise in pop sociology. I'm not exactly happy describing Neil Simon's semi-real-life in those terms, but then those are the terms in which he's chosen to present it. My notion is that Simon would have been wiser to imagine himself writing about another couple, and writing for another actress than his own wife; that way maybe he wouldn't have felt it so necessary to let both sides have the last word".[6] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave 2.5 stars out of four and wrote, "It's sweet, traditional, very safe, and riddled only with about 30 of Simon's punch-line jokes that may be OK on stage but are deadly mannered on film."[7] Janet Maslin of The New York Times described the love affair as "a whirlwind courtship with a gentle, lazy pace, which is one of many reasons why the film version feels self-contradictory, or at least incomplete. Fortunately, Miss Mason gives a vibrant, appealing performance that minimizes the movie's troubles and encourages the audience to sit back and enjoy the scenery."[8] Variety stated: "'Chapter Two' represents Neil Simon at his big-screen best. Ray Stark's film version of Simon's successful and loosely autobiographical play is tender, compassionate and gently humorous all at once."[9] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called it "Simon's most successful transference so far of play into film," with a performance by Mason that was "simply remarkable."[10] Writing in The New Yorker, Roger Angell observed that "James Caan, who is required to stare miserably out of a lot of different windows, seems ill at ease when delivering banter and/or moody musings. The only moments of real irony or interest are some tough, direct exchanges between Leo and Faye in the middle of their brief, miserable, inevitable affair."[11]

The film currently holds a 50% "Rotten" rating, with an average rating of 5.3/10, on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[12]

Awards[edit]

Year Award/Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards
1980 Best Actress in a Leading Role Marsha Mason Nominated
Golden Globes
1980 Best Motion Picture Actress - Musical/Comedy Marsha Mason Nominated
1980 Best Supporting Actress Valerie Harper Nominated

In popular culture[edit]

A portion of the 1979 film was featured in the plot of "The Letter", a Season 3 episode of the American sitcom Seinfeld.[13] In the episode, Jerry's artistic ex-girlfriend sends him a thoughtful letter trying to get him back. Later seeing a broadcast of Chapter Two on TV, Jerry realizes she copied the letter from the film word-for-word. In a deleted scene included with the DVD release of the episode, Jerry retaliates by breaking up with her using dialogue copied word-for-word from Plaza Suite, another Neil Simon film.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Chapter Two, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  2. ^ Passafiume, Andrea. Chapter Two Turner Classic Movies, accessed April 22, 2014.
  3. ^ "MOVIES: FILM DIRECTING: FOR CAAN, IT'S NOT A FESTIVAL", Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 Nov 1980: q31.
  4. ^ Movies: James Caan: Frustrated star talks tough about his career Tough talk from a frustrated star Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 11 May 1980: d2.
  5. ^ "Top Grossing Films of 1979". Listal.com.
  6. ^ "Chapter Two Movie Review, Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. January 1, 1980. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  7. ^ Siskel, Gene (February 7, 1980). "Neil Simon's 'Chapter Two': It's autobiographical—but it's not especially novel". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 2.
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 14, 1979). "Screen: Widower's Tale In Simon's 'Chapter Two'". The New York Times. C14.
  9. ^ "Film Reviews: Chapter Two". Variety. December 12, 1979. 22.
  10. ^ Champlin, Charles (December 9, 1979). "'Chapter Two': Neil Simon Lifts Embargo On Himself". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 1, 48.
  11. ^ Angell, Roger (December 24, 1979). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 82.
  12. ^ "Chapter Two, Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  13. ^ Movie Connections for Seinfeld, The Letter. IMDb. Retrieved April 22, 2014.

External links[edit]