Source: The New Democrat
Chapter Two is becoming one of my favorite movies for several reasons. It stars one of my favorite actors in James Caan and one of my favorite actresses Marsha Mason. I’m also a big fan of Joe Bologna and Valerie Harper. But also because it’s one of those comedies that is also serious. It’s basically a dramatic comedy with some soap opera aspects in it. It’s one of those movies with a lot smart wisecracks but done in a way to get people to think and not just make fun of the situation or people involved, but using critical humor in a very intelligent way. It’s a Neal Simon movie, so you should expect humor like that in it.
The whole plot and when the movie comes out, where it takes place, it’s just all great. 1978-79 New York ( depending on when the movie was shot and made ) when divorce and getting restarted romantically in America was becoming a major and mainstream issue for lots of Americans. Where either Americans are getting divorced like in Jennie MacLaine’s case ( played by Marsha Mason ) or losing the love of your life to a premature death in George Schneider’s case ( played by James Caan ) and then trying to figure out how to live single again and what life was like before you were married and then trying to figure out if you want to get involved romantically again.
Do you even want to date again and get seriously involved with one person, or even just date several people with several first dates. With your friends putting pressure on you to get back in the dating game ( so to speak ) because they don’t want you to be lonely. Or perhaps as well don’t want to be friends with someone who isn’t seeing anyone, or is even dating. Chapter Two has all of that. Two people who were once married and are now single, but for different reasons, who are put together by their best friends.
Just the whole scene where Jennie and George start dating again and going out with several people ( not all at once ) is funny and very well-done. Jennie goes out with a guy who his 6’9. Which must of been like blue jay on a date with a golden retriever. The size and height difference is undeniable and unavoidable. Marsha Mason in real-life and in that movie is only 5’2. Which is one of the reasons why she’s so adorable, along with her personality, baby face, and still is. She might have felt the need to stand on a stool when trying to talk to this 6’9 basketball player, just so she could see him and he could hear her. George goes out with a woman who literally wears an electric dress that flashes. Must of been like dating a scoreboard at a football game.
But then the movie gets real good and real when George is put up by his brother of all people, to call and talk to Jennie. They have like three funny phone calls before they even have a pre-date ( as they called it ) where George goes over to Jennie’s apartment just so they can meet and look at each other and talk for a while, which is where George proposes. And if you’re thinking he proposes to marry her, you would be wrong and understandably so, but he proposes to take her out on an actual date. The first hour of this movie is a very good romantic comedy with a lot of great writing and wisecracks. The second hour after they’re married and get back from their honeymoon is very dramatic and heavily emotional.
George has never gotten over losing his first wife and taking his second wife Jennie to the same place he took his first wife for their honeymoon brings back all sorts of memories that his first wife is gone and that he’s never gotten over that and has never been able to express how he feels about losing her. And takes all of that anger and frustration out on Jennie. Basically acts like she’s in his way and doesn’t want her around. Very mean and cruel to her, but not in the sense that he’s violent or throws a lot of horrible insults at her, but just cold and standoffish, aloof in his demeanor with her. But she doesn’t want to lose him and tries to get him to open up. George is an author and he gets his current book done and realizes that he still loves his second wife Jennie and that is where he opens up comes back to life and they live happily ever after. ( As the cliche goes )
This is not a cookie-cutter romantic comedy that became common in the 1990s which still hasn’t gone away where you have a movie that is built around the personalities of the two hot young actors in the movie. The lead actor and actress, where the movie is built around sitcom one-liners and pop culture catch phrases. Chapter Two is an original comedy because it’s creative and clever. With one of the best actors who has ever lived in James Caan and one of the best actresses at least of her generation in Marsha Mason, from one of the best screenplay writers who has ever lived in Neil Simon. Which makes it a great romantic comedy.