Greetings again from the darkness. There is no “normal” process for the break-up of a marriage or any relationship. Sometimes it’s even be a relief to both participants. But that’s not what happened to Finnerty Steeves, and she’s written an insightful and grounded script that could hit home (or maybe too close to home) for many. Co-directors Stephen Kunken (who also appears briefly on screen) and Jack Lewars bring the story to life, accentuated by a terrific performance from Ms. Steeves herself.
Jennie (Finnerty Steeves) is a New York stage actress, and one particular audition is used as somewhat of a structural device for the story. The play is (ironically) entitled “To Have and To Hold”, and the scene she is reading cuts right to the core of what Jennie has gone through in her life. Her husband David (Jeremy Davidson) has had an affair. After 15 years of marriage, a lack of communication and differing goals, the couple finds their relationship crumbling. Flashbacks are used to show us different points in the relationship – from their wedding reception, to the arguments about his affair, and to the painful ordeal with her pregnancy. The flashbacks are the ‘replay’ in the mind that anyone would go through in her situation.
We tag along as Jennie and David work their way through a steady stream of frustrating couples therapists, played in order by familiar faces Kate Burton, Richard Masur, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Deborah Rush, and Stephen Kunken (the film’s co-director). We are also in the chair with Jennie as she’s “drilled” on the relationship by her dentist (the always entertaining Austin Pendleton) and his assistant (Kathleen Chalfant); and then again at Ladies Night Out with her friends – as they provide support for each other and exchange horror stories on past relationships.
There is an authentic feel to the situations and the characters, right down to Jennie’s supportive parents played by John Pankow and Kristine Sutherland. On Jennie’s first post-divorce date with Clark (John Ellison Conlee), she provides an example of how adults should act in a scenario that doesn’t go as planned. It really shouldn’t be that difficult to do the right thing, but real life tells us that it evidently is. Divorce often leads one through multiple phases: anger/sadness – acceptance – grief – rebuilding of a life. Noah Baumbach’s Best Picture nominee MARRIAGE STORY (2019) showed us a split that shook the Richter scale, and this film conveys something different.
Ms. Steeves has written a terrific script, and her distinctive hangdog facial expressions are perfectly suited to emotional turmoil, yet some of her best acting here is done in the scenes when she’s not necessarily sad. The number of familiar faces in the cast is quite impressive, and the gentle infusion of humor helps offset some of the pain Jennie feels. The film deserves bonus points for creating ‘hein-hole’, a label you’ll appreciate once you hear the root explained. On an unrelated, trivial side note that might be of interest to fans of the Harlem Globetrotters, Jeremy Davidson’s father, Mickey, played for the Washington Generals.
Available On Demand beginning February 9, 2021