Appellate Judge Tom Becker is still trying to say adios to a certain week in 1998.
She was yesterday. He was today. There are moments when everyone is the same age.
He (Leonard Whiting, The Royal Hunt of the Sun) is an obnoxious, 20-ish man-boy; she (Jean Simmons, The Robe) is a beautiful, married lady nearing middle age. When he spies her on a commuter train, he decides she's "Mount Everest," a romantic ideal that's out of reach but worth pursuing.
And pursue he does. He spends an entire day following her around, and she spends the entire day trying to shake him. Despite his puerile antics, she finds herself drawn by his boyish enthusiasm. He insinuates himself on a visit to her mother and inexplicably charms the septuagenarian, who ominously warns her daughter, "If you have an affair with that boy, you'll regret it," before crinkling up like a smiling sponge and giving her blessing: "On the other hand, if you don't have an affair with him, you'll also regret it." What's a slightly past-her-shelf-date housewife to do when Mama rams through the OK? But when Boy and Woman finally mate after an exhausting, headache-inducing day of frolic, will they have a happy ending?
In 1978, writer/director Jane Wagner had the audacious notion to pair then-hot, recent Oscar nominee Lily Tomlin (Nashville) with "It Boy" and recent Oscar nominee John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever) in an older-woman/younger-man romance called Moment By Moment. Wagner's folly turned out to be one of the worst received films of all time, but it was not without precedent.
In 1971, Leonard Whiting was still basking in the glow of his starring role in one of the most successful and iconic movies of its time, Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. Jean Simmons had been making films for more than 20 years, with classics like Hamlet, Black Narcissus, and Elmer Gantry to her credit, and she had been Oscar-nominated the year before for The Happy Ending.
Someone got the idea to team these two up for a hipster-ish, Brief Encounter-like romantic drama set in London, trading on Whiting's youth appeal and Simmons' mature beauty and grace to carry the day. The result is Say Hello to Yesterday, a May-December fizzle.
The problem here rests squarely with the script. Writer/director Alvin Rakoff just doesn't have a story tell, and his characters aren't interesting enough for us to spend 96 minutes watching them muddle about. The Boy (as Whiting's character is known) is annoying. More adolescent than young man, he does things that are supposed to be adorably Puckish but are so irritating you want to strangle him. Included in his bag of tricks:
• To get through the crowd and board a train, he screams like a
lunatic that his mother has passed out, causing the other riders to turn and
look while he sidles past;
In short, he's an insufferable twit, and why Simmons' Grown Woman doesn't just bash him with a two-by-four is simply a mystery.
Other than Whiting's self-conscious and manufactured Whoopie, there's no joy here, no sense that these are two souls who belong together. The characters are given no motivation. Simmons' housewife doesn't seem particularly unhappy—as a matter-of-fact, she declares herself quite happy with her life as it is—and Whiting's Man Child in Swingin' London Land hardly seems hurting for female attention. Why her? Why him?
With a little more focus, and some depth to the characters, this could have been OK. As it is, we just can't get behind these two; there's nothing to root for. They're just pretty people, one of whom does pre-packaged wacky things while the other frowns disapprovingly or widens her eyes in disbelief. The real shame is that Simmons—still traffic-stoppingly beautiful, still possessed of such poise and presence—is wasted in this empty concoction.
Say Hello to Yesterday made little impact when it was released, but Scorpion comes through with a first-rate disc. The transfer is in great shape given the film's age and pedigree. Audio is the original mono track, and it sounds fine. We also get a terrific supplement: an audio commentary with Rakoff and film historian Tony Sloman. A fun, informative, trivia-and-history-heavy track, it makes this worth a rental.
A silly, irrelevant relic.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
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