1994, PG-13, 108 min. Directed by Glenn Gordon Caron. Starring Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Garry Shandling, Katharine Hepburn, Kate Capshaw, Pierce Brosnan, Chloe Webb.
REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Oct. 21, 1994
It is fitting that this remake of the 1939 weep-o-rama (also entitled Love Affair) stars the closest thing to Hollywood royalty our modern society has. One rumor among the many surrounding the film's release states that Beatty purchased the rights to the remake as a wedding present for his wife Annette Bening. (In actuality, Beatty had promised the late Steve Ross, close friend and ex-Time-Warner head, to make the film for him.) Director Caron's interpretation stays very close to the original film, updating settings, dialogue, and costume only when absolutely necessary. And, to the credit of Leo McCarey, who directed the first Love Affair as well as its initial remake -- 1957's An Affair to Remember starring Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant -- the dialogue plays well in 1994. The film's plot, for those unfamiliar with this chestnut, concerns Mike Gambril (Beatty) and Terry McKay (Bening), who meet while on a cross-continental trip and fall in love as they spend a few idyllic days together. Although both are engaged to other partners, at the end of their excursion they vow to meet three months later atop the Empire State Building. Of course, circumstances come between the lovers, and therein lies the film's melodramatic appeal. (While the key climactic scene carries less of an impact than, say, the revealing scene from The Crying Game, I'll still refrain from giving anything away.) Can true love overcome physical and emotional boundaries? Is there such a thing as romantic destiny? Beatty and Bening are pleasurable to watch, but their onscreen rapport seems to lack just a bit of the fire they had in Bugsy. Perhaps that happens after nearly three years of marriage. However, the person who steals the show has to be the Great Kate. Nearly 90 years old, her one scene is worth sitting through the entire film. Not many of the great screen actresses from the 1930s and 1940s are alive today, and seeing Katharine Hepburn onscreen after many years is both immensely rewarding and quite sobering. Chances are good that this will be her last film appearance, and the audience I watched Love Affair with breathed an audible sigh when she walked into the frame. Securing Hepburn to play one scene as Ginny, Mike's sage aunt, is a major coup -- even for Warren Beatty. While her presence definitely adds prestige to the picture, Love Affair is predictable, especially if you know the story. However, it is a very pretty film (production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti has also worked on The Last Emperor, American Gigolo, Death in Venice, and Toys), shot by veteran Conrad L. Hall to look like those velvety love stories from Hollywood's Golden Age when stylish couples fell in monogamous love. Although Love Affair seems something of an anomaly when released alongside films such as Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers, it may be just the panacea for audiences seeking refuge from too much blood and gunfire. At any rate, the Great Kate does murmur the f-word, and that's worth at least the price of a matinee.