Insert Chick Flick joke here.
In 1939, a little movie named Love Affair was released. By all accounts it was considered such a success that it was remade twice, once as An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant in 1957, and again in 1994 as Love Affair starring Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. Warner Brothers brings the latter of these remakes to DVD with not-so-impressive results.
Facts of the Case
Mike Gambril (Beatty—Bugsy, Ishtar) is a womanizing ex-jock turned sportscaster who's just become engaged to media magnate Lynn Weaver (Kate Capshaw—Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). During a plane trip to Sydney, Mike meets Terry McKay (Bening—American Beauty, Mars Attacks!), a likeable musician/singer who's on the way to Sydney to decorate her fiancé's boat. As fate would have it, the plane goes down on an island in the Pacific and Mike and Terry end up spending time together on their way back to the states. After a visit to Mike's crazy Aunt Ginny (Katharine Hepburn—On Golden Pond, The African Queen—who looks lost), Terry finally succumbs to Mike's charms and they have a torrid two day love affair. (I assume it was torrid, anyway, as we only see them kiss once and the poor cinematography obscured most of it.)
After returning to New York, they vow that they'll spend three months with no contact with each other to put their lives together and, if they want the affair to continue, they'll meet on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. This is confusing since Mike had originally departed from Los Angeles and I found it strange that he'd make a connecting flight at La Guardia. This might be the real problem with the airline companies these days. I hope somebody is looking into this. Anyway, they vow that if either of them doesn't show, then they'll simply accept the fact that it wasn't meant to be and get on with their lives, which seems like a really dumb way to build a relationship that requires communication and trust.
Three months pass, and during that time Mike has broken things off with Lynn and taken a coaching job in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Terry has broken off her relationship with Ken (Pierce Brosnan—The Thomas Crown Affair, The World Is Not Enough) and gained employment as a music teacher at a grade school. All is going well until Mike shows up at the Empire State Building and Terry gets hit by a car a block from their rendezvous.
Dejected, Mike returns to his life, wondering what exactly happened, and Terry, paralyzed from the waist down, vows that Mike will never see her in this condition. Things get even more complicated when Mike begins dating Lynn again while Ken is helping Terry convalesce and the two couples have a chance encounter at a charity function, an encounter so vastly coincidental I thought I was watching an episode of Three's Company.
The power of any weepy, romantic movie is held in the power of the film's stars. If the two leads have a decent chemistry, then chances are you'll be able to tug at the heartstrings and provoke an emotional response at the end. In the case of Love Affair, while Annette Bening seems to know what she's doing, Warren Beatty drops the ball. Let's face facts here. Beatty has exactly, at last count, one known facial expression that he uses in every scene. Beatty could probably have changed his expression, but the time it would have taken to have a wood carver come onto the set and chisel away at his face would have been too long and would have taken valuable time away from the guy who poked Beatty with a stick before every scene to make sure he was still alive (hey, now you know what a gaffer does).
At least Beatty didn't try to sing.
The supporting cast doesn't fare much better. Pierce Brosnan poses for the camera and says "hmmm" before and after every piece of his dialogue, and Kate Capshaw is utterly unbelievable as the bombshell in Mike's life. Or, maybe I'm still holding a grudge because she almost single-handedly ruined Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but it doesn't matter since she's hardly in the film.
The story itself is also mind-boggling, as Terry is fully aware of Mike's reputation as a womanizer (he actually admits to her that he's "never been faithful to anyone") and completely buys into him as a guy she wants to be with. On top of this, he also breaks his promise of no contact after Terry misses her date at the Empire State Building. Is this a guy you would want to bring home to meet the parents?
What really matters though is whether or not the payoff at the end was worth the wait. In other words, did Love Affair deliver with the water works? The answer is, simply, no. By the end of the film, you really just don't care enough about these two people, mostly because of Beatty's lack of ability to portray any sort of emotion, to care.
The cinematography almost makes up for the lack of emotion in the film. A number of the locations are breathtaking, though in all honesty I suppose it's pretty difficult to screw up a location shoot in Tahiti.
The DVD transfer itself is pretty poor in the sense that there's a pervasive amount of graininess throughout the film. Unless that was a gnat swarm trying to nest on Warren Beatty, I'm disappointed in the efforts Warner Brothers has put forward on Love Affair. Of course, gnats wouldn't account for the various artifacts that were also present. I've seen much older films look much better, and I get the feeling Warner Brothers just slapped this one down on plastic to get it out. For extras, you get a theatrical trailer and a cardboard snapper case that will probably disintegrate in sunlight.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Oh, the horrors of a bad production team. I counted at least six instances in the film where the voice looping (the re-recorded dialogue done after shooting to help mask environmental noises) didn't match up to the lips that were moving on the scene. During one of these occasions, you can hear Beatty's voice, but his lips aren't moving at all! Wow, he can sing and he's a ventriloquist! I had no idea! Words can not explain how annoyed I was by this.
All in all Love Affair is a pretty dangerous movie in the sense that it will probably send you into a deep coma if you watch it, so I would advise against even looking at the packaging in the local Rental MegaBuster just to be safe. If you must watch this mind-numbingly dumb remake, why not just rent An Affair to Remember?
I'd say guilty for being a sappy love story, but Love Affair doesn't muster much on the Weeping Quotient™ at any point during the film. Instead, it's guilty of being a largely emotionless and soulless Chick Flick, meaning it just doesn't pass muster in that category. Warner gets a slap on the wrist for a pretty crummy transfer.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Theatrical Trailer
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