14 September 2003 | Jennel2
For Those Who Love Literate, Intelligent Drama
Based on a series of John Updike stores, which were published in the New Yorker magazine over a period of twenty years, "Too Far To Go," is one of the most incisive, and emotionally honest depictions of both the joys and sadness of marriage ever put on film. Updike's stories of upper middle class WASP characters are justly considered among the best short stories written by an American post World War II, through some readers (and some viewers, in the case of this film) may be less able to achieve empathy with such characters, with their highly paid jobs, and their secure life style, in which prep school and Ivy league educations are the norm. But Updike's themes (at least in the short stories) are universal. In "Too Far To Go," one of the rare TV movies which later received theatrical release, Michael Moriarity and Blythe Danner portray Richard and Joan Maple, from the idealistic beginning of their marriage in the late fifties, to the disintagration of it in the late seventies, under the weight of mulitple affairs by each, and the attendant deceit and resentment these affairs cause. It's a measure of Updike's skill as a writer that he is able to make characters who betray each other, and their own principles, sympathetic. It's as if he's pointing out that we start with the best intentions, but, through our inability to trust, or know another's heart, we poison and destroy that which we hold most dear. One of the stories' and this film's points departures from the conventional treatment of such issues is that, through all their fights and casual cruelty to each other, Richard and Joan still love each other, even at the final scene in the courtroom in which their divorce ritual mirrors their marriage ceremony, twenty years before. Moriarity and Danner are both excellent. Those familiar with Moriarty only through his TV work on "Law and Order," and his later supporting roles in theatrical films, might be surprised by the depth and quality of his performance here. But, in the seventies, Moriarity was considered an up and coming, serious actor, as his performance here and in "Bang the Drum Slowly" (1973) attest. Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow's mother, gave fine performances in films as diverse as "The Great Santini," and "Hearts of the West," but her performance here, as Joan Maple, may be her best on film. As Janet Maslin said when "Too Far to Go," was released into the theaters after being shown on TV, "We can now go the movies and see this remarkable Drama. " And, as Washington Post TV critic, Tom Shales, wrote at the time, "This is a production for which no award would be good enough." Do yourself a favor, and search out this fine, nearly forgotten film. I found a copy of it recently in a bin of three for ten dollar VHS tapes. Rent it or buy it, if you are a fan of fine drama, you will not be disappointed.