12 January 2003 | barbarella70
Exceptionally funny and moving romantic comedy from Alan J. Pakula (Klute, All the President's Men) is a lost late '70's classic! Burt plays Phil Potter, a married every-man who's dumped by his self-consumed wife (Candice Bergen) only to stumble into love with an insecure school teacher (Jill Clayburgh).
Basically it sounds like An Unmarried Woman for men but Starting Over is its own film made with a gentle touch courtesy of Pakula and writer James L. Brooks and features some outstanding performances: Burt Reynolds -displaying vast amounts of charm and sex appeal- can be so beautifully restrained and sensitive (Deliverance, Boogie Nights) but then quickly turn and flash that devil's grin and deliver a line with a comic timing that's pure genius. He's amazing here and Phil is his best creation. Candice Bergen was sensational in Carnal Knowledge but her shallow Jessica is invested with a played-to-the-hilt quality and she shows a hilarious narcissiscm that wouldn't be seen again until Murphy Brown. (See if you can get her delightfully out-of-tune vocal rendition of Better than Evah out of your head after you've watched this!) Jill Clayburgh never found another part like Erica in An Unmarried Woman but then again she really didn't need to and her Marilyn is a slightly high-strung but charmingly shy wallflower and she plays off Reynolds perfectly; the two of them carry Starting Over to its finish with great style.
Starting Over is one of those movies that people vaguely remember and you almost never come across while channel surfing. (It's not even available on DVD and most video stores don't even have a copy of the VHS tape!) It's a shame it's not more available because it has an honest, acutely observational intelligence going for it and feels like a romantic comedy made for people who don't like romantic comedies. It's a great movie!