Saturday, February 10, 2024

I bet pi would be lonely too

Some years back, I tuned into TCM in the middle of a then new-to-me 1970s movie called One Is a Lonely Number. I made a point of waiting for it to show up again in order to be able to record it. So when TCM did run it again several months back, I was finally able to get that recording. Recently, I got around to watching it, so as always, here's the review.

"James, what are you doing"? So says Amy Brower (Trish Van Devere) to her husband James in their San Francisco-area apartment as the movie opens. James, however, is not about to be her husband that much longer. He's leaving Amy for reasons she doesn't understand. Indeed, he's called in sick to his job as a professor at the local college, administered the final exam early, and left. And this is the era when a lot of women like her, even if they didn't have children to look after, didn't do actual paid work.

Not only that, but Amy doesn't have much in the way of real friends. The closest would probably be Madge (Jane Elliot). She introduces Amy to Gert (Janet Leigh), who is the head of the local chapter of what she calls the "divorcées' league", and has decided ideas about the value of men, having married and divorced five of them. But having been through so many divorces, she also knows the ins and outs of the divorce process, this being the days before no-fault fivorce was common.

The other "friend" or at least someone who's going to become a bit of a friend, is Mr. Provo (Melvyn Douglas). He runs the local produce stand, and the Browers have been customers of his through their entire marriage, so he sees both of them quite a bit and knows their tastes in fruits and vegetables. He's also a widoer, so he knows a bit about moving on after the end of a marriage, although of course his marriage ended in a rather different way from Amy's.

Still, Amy needs a job, and when she goes to the employment agency, they don't have much for her since she doesn't really have all that much in the way of marketable skills, having gotten the proverbial "MRS degree" in college: there's not much use for art history majors with philosophy minors. The man at the employment agency gets her a job, but it's only as a lifeguard at the municipal pool. And then he shows up one day at the pool trying to put the moves on her, which is really creepy.

Will Amy ever be able to find happiness in life again? Will she need a man to do it? With the destruction of the Production Code a few years prior to this movie, it's easy to see why filmmakers would be interested in something with more grown-up themes. And maybe this was original for 1972 when it was made. But 50 years on, it feels totally unoriginal and the sort of thing that would be made nowadays as a TV movie of the week for one or another of the cable channels or streaming platforms.

One Is a Lonely Number isn't really a bad movie, but there's nothing particularly strong to recommend it, either, not even the presence of Janet Leigh and Melvyn Douglas.

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