The second of two TV films dealing with homosexuality in 1986, "My Two Loves" fares a little better than its predecessor, the awful "Welcome Home, Bobby." Unfortunately, it has much in common with that benighted film, mainly a reliance on clichés, and a complete lack of understanding about homosexuality.
This film centers on recently widowed Gail Springer (Mariette Hartley), who is working to support her daughter, Amy (Sara Inglis). Her mother, Dorothea (Sada Thompson in a truly regrettable performance), keeps insisting that she date and remarry so that Amy can have a father. Into the picture comes Ben (Barry Newman in an equally regrettable performance), Gail's husband's partner and former best friend. Dorothea thinks Ben is the perfect solution to Gail's problems, referring to him as her "gentleman caller." When Gail confides her unhappiness with her situation to her co-worker, Marjorie (Lynn Redgrave), she finds a sympathetic listener and friend. Then Marjorie comes out to Gail, and expresses her desire to be Gail's "lady caller." The women begin a relationship, but when Dorothea finds out, she tells Ben and threatens to take Amy away from Gail. And then things get really complicated...
The setup is promising, but the execution is disappointing. Instead of really exploring Gail's journey towards self knowledge, the movie settles for very standard reactions from characters that quickly become cardboard cutouts. Marjorie is a smug woman who treats Ben as a lesser life form. Ben is so pitifully chauvinistic that you find yourself siding with Marjorie, rather than feeling sympathy for his confusion at the turn events have taken. And as a mother, Dorothea is right up with Joan Crawford, breaking her daughter's confidences, and treating her emerging sexuality as bad behavior which must be punished. It's little wonder Gail ends up in therapy with this trio around her. The bigger question is why it takes her so long to free herself from all of them.
What is perhaps most frustrating about this movie is that the performances from a strong cast are so weak. Thompson and Newman are both talented actors, yet neither of them manages to show the person beneath the platitudes. Redgrave fares much better, managing to make Marjorie likable in spite of her smugness, and even showing Marjorie's vulnerability in her final scene with Gail. The only one to truly rise above the material she's given is Mariette Hartley, who shows the many facets of Gail's life with diamond-like clarity.
In spite of its many flaws, this is still an enjoyable film, so long as you're willing to lower your expectations enough. But if you're looking for a skillful portrait of a woman dealing with her sexuality in middle age, don't expect to find it here.