Ethics & Public Policy Center

That Old Feeling

Published in EPPC Online on April 1, 1997



That Old Feeling, directed by Carl Reiner, is a vehicle for Bette Midler to do her First Wives’ Club schtick all over again, but this time in the Goldie Hawn role as the over-the-hill starlet, Lilly. Dennis Farina plays her ex-husband, Dan, with whom she is said to have a hostile relationship with nuclear capability. Her daughter, Molly (Paula Marshall), a Yale graduate student, is about to marry a young, clean-cut, Mr.Family-values Republican called Keith (Jamie Denton), who is running for Congress and suggests to him that they elope so that there won’t be a wedding to which both parents will have to be invited. He pooh-poohs her concerns, but soon sees what she means when there is a huge shouting match at the reception. This leads to passionate sex, though they are both married to other people, and a sort of reconciliation. If you can call it that.

Having told you this much, I imagine you can guess the rest for yourselves. Keith naturally turns out to be, like all movie Republicans, a bad guy and a hypocrite, and Dan’s and Lilly’s current spouses, are also ridiculous and contemptible. Rowena (Gail O’Grady) is an interior decorator whose sole concern about getting divorced from Dan seems to be that it will damage her professionally. Likewise, Lilly’s husband Alan (David Rasche) is a celebrity marriage counselor and author of the book, The Tao of Divorce, worried that his clients will abandon him if his own marriage fails. He is that stock figure, the neurotic shrink, whose three little yapping dogs he treats as children. His psychobabble is predictable source of humor, but still humorous. He talks about the fact that “what people want from marriage is emotional valet parking” but how “you have to be validated” and uses not only “dialogue” but “language” as a verb.

You might be slightly more surprised to learn that the personable young paparazzo whom Lilly calls “the cockroach” but whose real name is Joey (Danny Nucci) turns out the right young man for Molly — though only after she gives him an instant makeover. Of course it does not surprise that Hollywood finds it easier to imagine paparazzi as human beings than Republicans. Lilly describes her renewed intimacy with Dan as being “the happiest I’ve been since it was OK to take drugs.” And of course, it is the drug of passion and folly and infidelity that wins out over the dutiful Yalie in Molly in the end. As the good characters are left to pair off according to the best Hollywood principles, poor Keith is left to shout after them: “Crazy liberals!” Amen, brother.

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