Movie Critique – Love Affair

Stars: 2.5 / 5

Recommendation: A predictable remake lacking chemistry, making it easy on eyes, but missing the mark on the grand finale as well as the essence of the story. Worth watching on your couch rather than renting it or going to theater. 

Love Affair is a 1994 American Romantic Drama film starring Warren Beatty, Anette Bening and Katherine Hepburn in the lead cast. This is a remake of the 1939 film of the same name. 

Ex-football star Mike Gambril (portrayed by Warren Beatty) and singer Terry McKay (portrayed by Annette Bening) meet on a flight to Sydney. Both engaged individually to someone else, fall for each other. They decide to wait for three months and reunite at the top of the Empire State Building. Will they reunite? What is the fate of these lovers?

The 1939 classic movie Love Affair had been remade into another classic movie An Affair to Remember in 1957. It also inspired the 1993 hit American Romantic Comedy Sleepless in Seattle. This was also remade by Bollywood in 1999 as Mann (= Heart) which I had mentioned in my blog post about the songs from that Hindi film.

All through when I was watching those four movies, I never realized there was another version of the film made in 1994. The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Warren Beatty and Katharine Hepburn; and three Oscar nominees: Annette Bening, Brenda Vaccaro, and Paul Mazursky. Yet it failed to make the same noise as the original film or it's first remake did. 

I realized why after watching the film. Sadly I do agree with the critics for this film being nominated for the Razzle Award for Worst Remake or Sequel. And it didn’t help the film any more in my review either especially when Sundance Channel had aired An Affair to Remember the very next day after I watched this movie on CPTV. I couldn’t help but keep comparing to the first remake all along.

Interestingly enough all through the three English remakes since 1939, the lead actress remains Terry McKay while the lead actor's name changes. Although they made Ginny (portrayed by Katherine Hepburn) an Aunt to Mike Gambril in this version as opposed to grandmother of the lead actor in both the previous films. This is Katherine Hepburn's final film role. 

I have watched Anette Bening in many movies and she had some excellent performances in movies like American Beauty, The American President, The Seige; and most recently as Dr. Wendy Lawson in Captain Marvel. She did the same amazing job in this film. Incidentally while she is headed to Sydney, Australia in this film, her name is Sydney Ellen Wade in the 1995 hit film The American President, released a year later. 

The story begins on a plane, but it eventually moves to ship to keep with the theme in the original film. We even see a scene where Terry pulls back Mike for a kiss similar to Affair to Remember scene, but this one happens inside Terry's room. The film veers a bit into physical action between Terry and Mike, being that this film is done in 90s. But adding that element actually removed the charm from the film.

The iconic scene between Terry and Mike's Aunt paled in comparison to its predecessor movies. Although it was an honor to see the great actress from the 1930s and 1940s on big screen again in the modern era. That scene was the heart of the film and Warren Beatty failed to convey it to the viewers. Also the grand dame's costume was so basic compared to how she was shown during her peak years in films. 

Another iconic scene is where Mike sees Terry after a benefit concert, and exchange just a "Hello". Warren Beatty looked more angry and frustrated rather than confused and shocked with love, which the expression should be. While Terry looks just shocked as opposed to being stunned and sad with love. Again this scene paled terribly.

The casting may have been on par, but either the acting or something was missing, may be chemistry or the editing or the dialogues. Although the dialogues for several scenes that were similar to from An Affair to Remember, were reused with light modifications. It came as a surprise to me since Warren and Annette were married at the time of this film making and the chemistry between them was lacking in the film. 

I should praise the cinematographer, Conrad L. Hall for the impressive use of light and shadow to emulate the feelings of the characters. However, he made almost every other scene dark changing the essence from romance to something more somber and sad. Also kudos to the costume designing by Milena Canonero, especially in making Annette look beautiful in long dresses or jump suits, every single one of them with collars. 

The other famous stars that we see in the film are Pierce Brosnan as Ken Allen - Terry's fiancée in the film - a year before he becomes the next James Bond in GoldenEye; 

Kate Capshaw as Lynn Weaver - Mike's fiancée in the film - who I remember for her lead role in the 1984 American action-adventure film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

And Ray Charles, the legendary singer as himself; 

Soundtrack is entertaining. Although two songs - "Changes" by Bobby Short and "Never Let Your Left Hand Know What Your Right Hand's Doing" by Louis Jordan repeat quite a bit in the first half of the film. Yet it was missing the iconic song that Terry sings with lead actor's grandmother in the predecessor movies. It would have perhaps nailed the film better. 

Despite the well-put star cast, the excellent acting skills, the beautiful plot, sadly this 1994 remake came short in chemistry, emotions and conveying the essence of the story to the audience. It just ended up being a predictable film. Wish it could have been done better, considering Katherine Hepburn never acted after this film. Would have been a final feather in her cap.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. I am glad to see that Warren Beatty had acknowledged the 1939 film in the opening credits.

b. Carrie Fisher was one of the uncredited script writers for this film.

c. From IMDB: In the commercial they show Warren Beatty as quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams, this footage is from Heaven Can Wait in which Beatty played quarterback of the Rams.

d. You will not believe how many actors I saw who had minor roles in this film but later on went on to become big stars themselves either on TV or Film. One such character is Martha, portrayed by Carey Lowell, whom we know for her prominent role as Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross on the television legal drama series Law & Order. 

e. Another lead actress that I remember seeing her in a few of the Murder, She Wrote episodes (Just Another Fish Story in 1998, The Fixer Upper in 1990 and The Family Jewels in 1990) as well as in one of episodes in Columbo (Murder in Malibu in 1990), we see her as Nora Stillman in this film.

f. The Russian actor, Elya Baskin, who is famed for his roles portraying the Russian on the wrong side of the law in many films and TV shows, plays the part of the Ship's Captain. 

g. In the end credits, we see two names:

i. Steve Ross - film is dedicated to him. As Warren Beatty promised to make a film from this one time Time-Warner head. 

ii. Ferdinando Scarfiotti - the production designer receives an "in memoriam".

2. Sub-Plots:

a. On CPTV when the movie aired, it was mistakenly listed as Rebecca in the Channel listing. That lead me to the 1940 psychological thriller which is also being remade in 2020.


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