Modern Romance


1h 33m 1981
Modern Romance

Brief Synopsis

A film editor's neuroses complicate his love life.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Release Date
1981

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m

Synopsis

Robert and Mary's relationship has survived many break-ups. The obsessive and jealous Robert miserably attempts to make it through their current separation by throwing himself into his work as a film editor, using drugs, and making an unfortunate blind date. Then, determinated to win Mary back, his possessiveness once again gets in the way.

Crew

The Association

Song Performer

James Berkey

Set Decorator

Bruce Birmelin

Photography

Albert Brooks

Screenplay

Jeff Bushelman

Sound Effects

Ross Cannon

Grip

Barbara Claman

Casting

Sharon Clark

Assistant

Joe Cocker

Song Performer

Joe Collins

Key Grip

Catherine E. Coulson

Assistant Camera

John Currin

Apprentice Editor

Fred Elmes

Camera Operator

Allan Falco

Transportation Coordinator

Robert Farmer

Best Boy

David Finfer

Editor

Stephen J Fisher

Unit Production Manager

Les Fresholtz

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Ruth J Gribin

Production Secretary

Linda Henrikson

Costumer

Michael Jackson

Song Performer

Monica Johnson

Screenplay

Andree Juviler

Location Manager

Michael William Katz

Gaffer

Andre Kostelanetz

Song Performer

Debra Kurtz

Casting

Michael Looney

Assistant Director

Max Manlove

Production Assistant

Karen Martini

Production Secretary

Dennis Matsuda

Assistant Camera

Carol Meikle

Hair Stylist

Walter Murphy

Song Performer

Bill Nelson

Sound Mixer

Erik L Nelson

Property Master

Michael Ornstein

Assistant Editor

Steve Perry

Assistant Director

Arthur Piantadosi

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Edward T. Richardson

Production Designer

Lance Rubin

Music

Tex Rudloff

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Eric Saarinen

Director Of Photography

Earl Sampson

Boom Operator

Andrew Scheinman

Producer

Martin Shafer

Producer

Phyllis Shafran

Auditor

Gail Siemers

Assistant

Christina Smith

Makeup

Patrick Somerset

Sound Effects

Katsumasa Takasago

Song Performer

Paul Tampourlos

Transportation Coordinator

Larry Verne

Construction Coordinator

Paula Wakefield

Location Manager

Carole Westphall

Script Supervisor

Christine Zamiara

Costumer

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Release Date
1981

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m

Articles

Modern Romance


When Albert Brooks made his first film, Real Life (1979), you could sense a torpid Hollywood thinking it might rise up from its mat of comedic formula. Brooks's second film, Modern Romance (1981), clinched it. The sigh of collective relief that wafted from Hollywood to Manhattan's Carnegie Deli was palpable. Hollywood had its own West Coast Woody Allen. But the equating of Allen and Brooks, which still persists, conveniently overlooks some significant differences. In their glory days, Allen was funnier, Brooks was riskier. Much of Allen's humor came from his witty putdowns of himself and his screen persona's nebbishness. That he could achieve bittersweet poignancy as well became clear in Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). But there was always something placating in Allen's persona. He could be charming. He wanted us to laugh at him, yes, but he also wanted us to like him.

Not Brooks, who with an insane purity refused to take it easy on his audiences and especially on himself. Allen in his standup days was quicker with a punchline. Brooks worked without a net, once appearing on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, delivering a five-minute monologue, not getting a single laugh, then at the end declaring he had been doing standup for five years and had run out of material. The audience, Carson included, was convulsed with laughter, partly due, no doubt, to the simple release of what had to have been the accumulating tension.

With Brooks, there's nothing placating, or even mitigating. He encompasses comedy's three Ns – neurosis, narcissism and neediness. His. Like much of modern life, he's funny and horrible at the same time. In Modern Romance, his alter ego film editor, Robert Cole, makes us laugh at his blindness to his own self-destructive obsessiveness, getting it so gratingly right that you can't stand being in the same room with him for more than a few beats before wanting to flee, screaming. In his film, he plays a guy who, to paraphrase the immortal Jimmy Durante, has the feeling that he wants to go, but still has the feeling that he wants to stay. Which of course leaves him nowhere. Which of course is the point of the unsparing, yet ruefully funny hyper-noodge and his off-the-charts behavior.

He's a guy who can invite his superhumanly patient girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold) to dinner, tell her he has to break up with her yet again ("It's a no-win situation – Vietnam, us"), watch her storm off, then get angry because she didn't finish her meal. He's whiny and impossible, refusing to use his cuddly appearance to ingratiate himself, deliberately filming his scenes in small spaces to underline the narrowness of his self-circumscribed life, adding ever-impending claustrophobia to our reasons for wanting to be anywhere he isn't. Essentially, his character in Modern Romance spends a lot of time literally going around in circles in hyper-drive, turning the circles into a rut, Road-Runner-style, then turning the rut into a moat. His vehicle of choice is a sleek silver roadster he floors enroute through L.A. and its environs. Ordinarily you'd worry about him crashing, except that you know he can't, partly because the picture would end too soon, partly because it's out of keeping with his nonstop replenishing of his own Sisyphus myth.

His self-reflexiveness somehow seems more at home in L.A. than it might elsewhere in this film where the only real credibility struggle has to do with the Harrold character's willingness to keep going with him, and not slap a stiff restraining order on him; he even follows one break-up by stuffing his car with apology toys and flowers and leaving them on her doorstep. At one point she asks him if he knows the difference between real love and movie love. It's a fair question, although more to the point would have been whether he can love anyone, as in the famous New Yorker cartoon with the troubled Greek maiden standing on the bank of a stream and asking her handsome guy, "Tell me Narcissus, is it someone else?"

Brooks is not unaware of Hollywood mythmaking and its inner workings. His scenes at work at his editing job are funny, even envelope-pushing. He annoys the hell out of his stoic colleague (Bruno Kirby) by showing up bummed out over his latest breakup and then going back and forth endlessly about whether he should stay and work or go home because he can't concentrate. Here, too, cramped work spaces add to the walls-closing-in feeling. They do as well in the apartment to which he retreats, drunk and stuffed with Quaaludes. There he disses his answering machine, adores his record collection, and collapses, only to rise up, contact an old girlfriend, impulsively make a date with her, then, after picking her up, deposit her on her curb after driving around the block and deciding he really had better try to re-ignite the relationship with the woman he just declared himself glad he was free of.

It's that kind of movie. And yes, Brooks uses his character's job to slip in a few digs at movies. The movie he's working on is a Star Wars knockoff featuring George Kennedy in a silver lame robe, clutching a ray gun while prowling the corridors of a cheesy spacecraft. In a sound editing studio, there's a glancing remark about having to finish up and clear out because the next time slot has been assigned to the legendarily lengthy Heaven's Gate (1980). Filmmaker James L. Brooks gets a rare chance to show his stuff as an actor in a brief appearance as Brooks's and Kirby's vacillating boss. He later more than repaid the favor, giving Brooks perhaps his best screen role as the smart but nervous and camera-shy reporter in Broadcast News (1987). Albert Brooks, born Albert Lawrence Einstein, also cast his brother, Bob Einstein, in a brief, but very funny role as an aggressive sporting goods store salesman who loads the insecure narcissist down with armfuls of expensive junk.

But the number the clerk does on him is nothing compared to the number he does on himself and can't stop doing. Modern Romance is Brooks's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mess. A very specific mess, a Hollywood mess, a finicky, funny, obsessive compulsive who just can't leave anything alone, who talks his way back into his girlfriend's bed with a declaration of love, then undoes it all by nosing through her papers, going ballistic over some out-of-town calls on her phone bill, and possessively interrogating her, unable to see that he doesn't really want to possess what he's being possessive about. It's not Brooks's editor who gets a workout in his overpriced running togs. It's perversity itself, in this film Stanley Kubrick – himself no stranger to the obsessive-compulsive – famously praised. Perhaps Kubrick was looking in a mirror while doing so. Or working on a draft of Eyes Wide Shut (1999) while recalling one of Brooks's memorable observations about the biz: "Being a screenwriter in Hollywood is like being a eunuch at an orgy." Either way, Modern Romance clearly defines one side of the comedy of discomfort's Hollywood-Manhattan divide.

Producers: Andrew Scheinman, Martin Shafer
Director: Albert Brooks
Screenplay: Albert Brooks, Monica Johnson
Cinematography: Eric Saarinen
Film Editing: David Finfer
Cast: Albert Brooks (Robert Cole), Kathryn Harrold (Mary Harvard), Tyann Means (waitress), Bruno Kirby (Jay), Jane Hallaren (Ellen), Karen Chandler (neighbor), Dennis Kort (health food salesman), Bob Einstein (sporting goods salesman), Virginia Feingold (bank receptionist), Thelma Bernstein (Albert Brooks' mother), Candy Castillo (drugstore manager), James L. Brooks (David), George Kennedy (himself and Zeron), Rick Beckner (Zeon)
C-93m.

by Jay Carr
Modern Romance

Modern Romance

When Albert Brooks made his first film, Real Life (1979), you could sense a torpid Hollywood thinking it might rise up from its mat of comedic formula. Brooks's second film, Modern Romance (1981), clinched it. The sigh of collective relief that wafted from Hollywood to Manhattan's Carnegie Deli was palpable. Hollywood had its own West Coast Woody Allen. But the equating of Allen and Brooks, which still persists, conveniently overlooks some significant differences. In their glory days, Allen was funnier, Brooks was riskier. Much of Allen's humor came from his witty putdowns of himself and his screen persona's nebbishness. That he could achieve bittersweet poignancy as well became clear in Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). But there was always something placating in Allen's persona. He could be charming. He wanted us to laugh at him, yes, but he also wanted us to like him. Not Brooks, who with an insane purity refused to take it easy on his audiences and especially on himself. Allen in his standup days was quicker with a punchline. Brooks worked without a net, once appearing on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, delivering a five-minute monologue, not getting a single laugh, then at the end declaring he had been doing standup for five years and had run out of material. The audience, Carson included, was convulsed with laughter, partly due, no doubt, to the simple release of what had to have been the accumulating tension. With Brooks, there's nothing placating, or even mitigating. He encompasses comedy's three Ns – neurosis, narcissism and neediness. His. Like much of modern life, he's funny and horrible at the same time. In Modern Romance, his alter ego film editor, Robert Cole, makes us laugh at his blindness to his own self-destructive obsessiveness, getting it so gratingly right that you can't stand being in the same room with him for more than a few beats before wanting to flee, screaming. In his film, he plays a guy who, to paraphrase the immortal Jimmy Durante, has the feeling that he wants to go, but still has the feeling that he wants to stay. Which of course leaves him nowhere. Which of course is the point of the unsparing, yet ruefully funny hyper-noodge and his off-the-charts behavior. He's a guy who can invite his superhumanly patient girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold) to dinner, tell her he has to break up with her yet again ("It's a no-win situation – Vietnam, us"), watch her storm off, then get angry because she didn't finish her meal. He's whiny and impossible, refusing to use his cuddly appearance to ingratiate himself, deliberately filming his scenes in small spaces to underline the narrowness of his self-circumscribed life, adding ever-impending claustrophobia to our reasons for wanting to be anywhere he isn't. Essentially, his character in Modern Romance spends a lot of time literally going around in circles in hyper-drive, turning the circles into a rut, Road-Runner-style, then turning the rut into a moat. His vehicle of choice is a sleek silver roadster he floors enroute through L.A. and its environs. Ordinarily you'd worry about him crashing, except that you know he can't, partly because the picture would end too soon, partly because it's out of keeping with his nonstop replenishing of his own Sisyphus myth. His self-reflexiveness somehow seems more at home in L.A. than it might elsewhere in this film where the only real credibility struggle has to do with the Harrold character's willingness to keep going with him, and not slap a stiff restraining order on him; he even follows one break-up by stuffing his car with apology toys and flowers and leaving them on her doorstep. At one point she asks him if he knows the difference between real love and movie love. It's a fair question, although more to the point would have been whether he can love anyone, as in the famous New Yorker cartoon with the troubled Greek maiden standing on the bank of a stream and asking her handsome guy, "Tell me Narcissus, is it someone else?" Brooks is not unaware of Hollywood mythmaking and its inner workings. His scenes at work at his editing job are funny, even envelope-pushing. He annoys the hell out of his stoic colleague (Bruno Kirby) by showing up bummed out over his latest breakup and then going back and forth endlessly about whether he should stay and work or go home because he can't concentrate. Here, too, cramped work spaces add to the walls-closing-in feeling. They do as well in the apartment to which he retreats, drunk and stuffed with Quaaludes. There he disses his answering machine, adores his record collection, and collapses, only to rise up, contact an old girlfriend, impulsively make a date with her, then, after picking her up, deposit her on her curb after driving around the block and deciding he really had better try to re-ignite the relationship with the woman he just declared himself glad he was free of. It's that kind of movie. And yes, Brooks uses his character's job to slip in a few digs at movies. The movie he's working on is a Star Wars knockoff featuring George Kennedy in a silver lame robe, clutching a ray gun while prowling the corridors of a cheesy spacecraft. In a sound editing studio, there's a glancing remark about having to finish up and clear out because the next time slot has been assigned to the legendarily lengthy Heaven's Gate (1980). Filmmaker James L. Brooks gets a rare chance to show his stuff as an actor in a brief appearance as Brooks's and Kirby's vacillating boss. He later more than repaid the favor, giving Brooks perhaps his best screen role as the smart but nervous and camera-shy reporter in Broadcast News (1987). Albert Brooks, born Albert Lawrence Einstein, also cast his brother, Bob Einstein, in a brief, but very funny role as an aggressive sporting goods store salesman who loads the insecure narcissist down with armfuls of expensive junk. But the number the clerk does on him is nothing compared to the number he does on himself and can't stop doing. Modern Romance is Brooks's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mess. A very specific mess, a Hollywood mess, a finicky, funny, obsessive compulsive who just can't leave anything alone, who talks his way back into his girlfriend's bed with a declaration of love, then undoes it all by nosing through her papers, going ballistic over some out-of-town calls on her phone bill, and possessively interrogating her, unable to see that he doesn't really want to possess what he's being possessive about. It's not Brooks's editor who gets a workout in his overpriced running togs. It's perversity itself, in this film Stanley Kubrick – himself no stranger to the obsessive-compulsive – famously praised. Perhaps Kubrick was looking in a mirror while doing so. Or working on a draft of Eyes Wide Shut (1999) while recalling one of Brooks's memorable observations about the biz: "Being a screenwriter in Hollywood is like being a eunuch at an orgy." Either way, Modern Romance clearly defines one side of the comedy of discomfort's Hollywood-Manhattan divide. Producers: Andrew Scheinman, Martin Shafer Director: Albert Brooks Screenplay: Albert Brooks, Monica Johnson Cinematography: Eric Saarinen Film Editing: David Finfer Cast: Albert Brooks (Robert Cole), Kathryn Harrold (Mary Harvard), Tyann Means (waitress), Bruno Kirby (Jay), Jane Hallaren (Ellen), Karen Chandler (neighbor), Dennis Kort (health food salesman), Bob Einstein (sporting goods salesman), Virginia Feingold (bank receptionist), Thelma Bernstein (Albert Brooks' mother), Candy Castillo (drugstore manager), James L. Brooks (David), George Kennedy (himself and Zeron), Rick Beckner (Zeon) C-93m. by Jay Carr

Modern Romance - The Perfect Neurotic Date Comedy - Albert Brooks's MODERN ROMANCE on DVD


Anyone who knows Albert Brooks solely from recent undernourished comedies such as The Muse and Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World doesn't know what the writer-director-actor is (or certainly was) capable of. His recent movies are mere shadows of his first wave of movie comedies, including 1981's Modern Romance, made between his other early standouts, Real Life and Lost in America (Monica Johnson co-wrote all three).

New to DVD, Modern Romance is a romantic comedy, but in a way it's also an anti-romantic comedy. Few comedies delve into the deep pit of romantic obsession and emotional turmoil as Modern Romance does, or offer a hero as amusingly desperate. He's Robert Cole (Brooks), who opens the movie by breaking up with longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend Mary (Kathryn Harrold). "You've never heard of a no-win situation?" he asks her when speaking of their relationship. "Vietnam. This." Mary storms away, ordering Robert to not call him, the strong implication being he's dumped her and then come crawling back before.

Robert's often pathetic attempts to move on with his life comprise the bulk of the movie and its laughs. He tries to immerse himself in work (he's a film editor cutting a cheesy George Kennedy sci-fi movie at American International) but he's too pre-occupied with the break-up, his mood swings teetering from optimism to depression. So he takes the Quaaludes assistant editor Jay (a typically priceless Bruno Kirby) gives him, and goes home. Some of the best moments in Modern Romance simply follow Robert around his house, trying to feel good: putting on a record, talking to his pet bird, phoning Jay, fingering through his Rolodex ("Look at all my friends," he says to the bird), calling up a woman in his Rolodex that he doesn't even remember and making a date for the following evening.

Robert's amusing quest for contentment continues the following day, as he decides to start working out and heads to a health food store and then a sporting goods store, where he's pushed into buying expensive gear by the salesman (comedy vet Bob Einstein, Brooks' real-life brother and the future Super Dave Osborne). His attempts to forget Mary don't work, partially because of the pop songs he encounters on the car radio during his travels: Nazareth's schlocky cover of "Love Hurts," The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," The Association's "Along Came Mary." The unhelpful assault of pop songs reaches its apex that night when Robert picks up his date and Brooks holds on a two-shot through the windshield of the couple driving off, as the long intro of Michael Jackson's "She's Out of My Life" builds up. As the lyrics begin ("She's out of my life/And I don't know whether to laugh or cry"), Robert circles the block, drops off the woman and the world's quickest date is over.

As with the shot through the windshield, in much of the action Brooks' direction is appealingly uncomplicated. He lets the comedy unfold from the situations, he doesn't gimmick them up. Following the non-date, Robert buys a pile of make-up gifts to leave on Mary's doorstep and the couple soon gets back together, but not after an obsessive night of waiting for her to phone that's so painful Robert has to simply leave his house. His night of roaming is a nicely sad little interlude, include an effective moment at a payphone where Robert waits, while an older man phones an ex, obsessively inquiring what she's up to with an aching blend of affection and aggression. It's a peek at a potential older Robert.

Of course, after the make-up sex, Robert and Mary's reconciliation doesn't go so smoothly. While looking for a razor at her house, he stumbles upon a phone bill with two very long calls to someone in New York City on them, and you know at some point he's going to quiz Mary about them. But Modern Romance isn't about things going smoothly. It's about the unintentionally amusing drudgery in life. To that end, in addition to the reconciliation, the second half of the movie also gives us more scenes concerning the movie Robert is editing, with a director (James L. Brooks, the writer-director) almost as neurotic as Robert. There's a hilarious sequence in which, after the director cajoles Robert and Jay into enhancing the sound of one shot of the sci-fi movie, the two go to a sound studio and deal with union sound engineers (the main one played by Albert Henderson of TV's Car 54, Where Are You?) who are blissfully disinterested in anything the two are trying to accomplish.

Brooks continues to play characters as neurotic and intentionally irritating as those he did in early movies like Modern Romance. His movies haven't been as funny recently because he no longer gives them formidable foils, as he does here with Mary, who regularly tells him off. In Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, aside from one brief moment everyone actually agreed with Brooks' character whenever he said something stupid. Modern Romance, the DVD of which has no extras, shows when Brooks knew how to do more than just make his character misguided. He knew how to make him funny, too.

For more information about Modern Romance, visit Sony Pictures. To order Modern Romance, go to TCM Shopping.

by Paul Sherman

Modern Romance - The Perfect Neurotic Date Comedy - Albert Brooks's MODERN ROMANCE on DVD

Anyone who knows Albert Brooks solely from recent undernourished comedies such as The Muse and Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World doesn't know what the writer-director-actor is (or certainly was) capable of. His recent movies are mere shadows of his first wave of movie comedies, including 1981's Modern Romance, made between his other early standouts, Real Life and Lost in America (Monica Johnson co-wrote all three). New to DVD, Modern Romance is a romantic comedy, but in a way it's also an anti-romantic comedy. Few comedies delve into the deep pit of romantic obsession and emotional turmoil as Modern Romance does, or offer a hero as amusingly desperate. He's Robert Cole (Brooks), who opens the movie by breaking up with longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend Mary (Kathryn Harrold). "You've never heard of a no-win situation?" he asks her when speaking of their relationship. "Vietnam. This." Mary storms away, ordering Robert to not call him, the strong implication being he's dumped her and then come crawling back before. Robert's often pathetic attempts to move on with his life comprise the bulk of the movie and its laughs. He tries to immerse himself in work (he's a film editor cutting a cheesy George Kennedy sci-fi movie at American International) but he's too pre-occupied with the break-up, his mood swings teetering from optimism to depression. So he takes the Quaaludes assistant editor Jay (a typically priceless Bruno Kirby) gives him, and goes home. Some of the best moments in Modern Romance simply follow Robert around his house, trying to feel good: putting on a record, talking to his pet bird, phoning Jay, fingering through his Rolodex ("Look at all my friends," he says to the bird), calling up a woman in his Rolodex that he doesn't even remember and making a date for the following evening. Robert's amusing quest for contentment continues the following day, as he decides to start working out and heads to a health food store and then a sporting goods store, where he's pushed into buying expensive gear by the salesman (comedy vet Bob Einstein, Brooks' real-life brother and the future Super Dave Osborne). His attempts to forget Mary don't work, partially because of the pop songs he encounters on the car radio during his travels: Nazareth's schlocky cover of "Love Hurts," The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," The Association's "Along Came Mary." The unhelpful assault of pop songs reaches its apex that night when Robert picks up his date and Brooks holds on a two-shot through the windshield of the couple driving off, as the long intro of Michael Jackson's "She's Out of My Life" builds up. As the lyrics begin ("She's out of my life/And I don't know whether to laugh or cry"), Robert circles the block, drops off the woman and the world's quickest date is over. As with the shot through the windshield, in much of the action Brooks' direction is appealingly uncomplicated. He lets the comedy unfold from the situations, he doesn't gimmick them up. Following the non-date, Robert buys a pile of make-up gifts to leave on Mary's doorstep and the couple soon gets back together, but not after an obsessive night of waiting for her to phone that's so painful Robert has to simply leave his house. His night of roaming is a nicely sad little interlude, include an effective moment at a payphone where Robert waits, while an older man phones an ex, obsessively inquiring what she's up to with an aching blend of affection and aggression. It's a peek at a potential older Robert. Of course, after the make-up sex, Robert and Mary's reconciliation doesn't go so smoothly. While looking for a razor at her house, he stumbles upon a phone bill with two very long calls to someone in New York City on them, and you know at some point he's going to quiz Mary about them. But Modern Romance isn't about things going smoothly. It's about the unintentionally amusing drudgery in life. To that end, in addition to the reconciliation, the second half of the movie also gives us more scenes concerning the movie Robert is editing, with a director (James L. Brooks, the writer-director) almost as neurotic as Robert. There's a hilarious sequence in which, after the director cajoles Robert and Jay into enhancing the sound of one shot of the sci-fi movie, the two go to a sound studio and deal with union sound engineers (the main one played by Albert Henderson of TV's Car 54, Where Are You?) who are blissfully disinterested in anything the two are trying to accomplish. Brooks continues to play characters as neurotic and intentionally irritating as those he did in early movies like Modern Romance. His movies haven't been as funny recently because he no longer gives them formidable foils, as he does here with Mary, who regularly tells him off. In Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, aside from one brief moment everyone actually agreed with Brooks' character whenever he said something stupid. Modern Romance, the DVD of which has no extras, shows when Brooks knew how to do more than just make his character misguided. He knew how to make him funny, too. For more information about Modern Romance, visit Sony Pictures. To order Modern Romance, go to TCM Shopping. by Paul Sherman

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring March 1, 1981

Released in United States Spring March 1, 1981