blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

A New Life (1988, Alan Alda)

A scene from A NEW LIFE, directed by Alan Alda for Paramount Pictures.

Alda opens A New Life likes it’s going to juxtapose he and Ann-Margret’s lives immediately follow their divorce. For a while, it does. Alda’s got Hal Linden as a sidekick, Ann-Margret’s got Mary Kay Place. It’s all very even. She’s going back to school, he’s trying to figure out how to date. The beginning might even emphasize Ann-Margret more, as Alda’s attempts at dating are more for comic effect… but it quickly changes.

Once Ann-Margret gets established with John Shea, her portion of the film becomes a lot less even. Sure, Alda’s just introduced Veronica Hamel as his love interest, but their relationship comes to dominate the running time.

The problem—besides it being somewhat unfair—is Alda’s spending the wrong amount of time on each story. His character’s arc needs its own movie and if it doesn’t have its own movie, it needs less. Ann-Margret’s arc would have been perfectly fine with her as the primary protagonist.

I mean, Linden even gets second billing, which makes absolutely no sense if one’s looking at A New Life conceptually.

The acting is good. Shea has one of the film’s more difficult roles, which he seems to realize but no one else does, which leads to some problematic scenes, but he’s still good. Alda and Hamel are excellent. Linden’s hilarious, almost unbelievably so. Ann-Margret does well in the role as scripted, but she and it could have been a lot better.

Still, it’s a genial diversion.



Written and directed by Alan Alda; director of photography, Kelvin Pike; edited by William Reynolds; music by Michael Jay and Joseph Turrin; production designer, Barbara Dunphy; produced by Martin Bregman; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Alan Alda (Steve Giardino), Hal Linden (Mel Arons), Ann-Margret (Jackie Giardino), Veronica Hamel (Kay Hutton), John Shea (Doc), Mary Kay Place (Donna), Beatrice Alda (Judy), David Eisner (Billy) and Victoria Snow (Audrey).


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