User Reviews (32)

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  • This is my absolute favorite movie. The quiet story of a young widow coping with the loss of her husband and a move to the big city is tender, humorous and hopeful. Fine performances by Jessica Lange, Chris O'Donnell (in his first screen role), Kathy Bates, Arliss Howard and Joan Cusack round out this film. Casting is perfect in every sense and the emotion of the movie is carried well by a haunting score. One of my favorite scenes has Lange arriving unannounced at Howard's home. Her sadness is palpable and his gift - a trip to the Polka hall, where she loses herself in a wild dance with a waitress, while he sits in with the band - is moving. There is such a sense of hope, generosity and goodness in this movie. It is not at all maudlin, or contrived. Just a wonderful exploration of the darkness of grief and unwelcome change, and the love and support sometimes found in unexpected places. There are also great comedic moments, chiefly involving O'Donnell and Cusack. See this movie!
  • I am a longtime fan of Jessica Lange's, and a newfound fan of Arliss Howard's after viewing Men Don't Leave. A really good performance also by Chris O'Donnell and Joan Cusak. This is a true-to-life type of movie. It's Wow Factor isn't measured by action shots or stunts or explosions, but rather by the satisfaction and peace each character reaches by story's end.

    It's your favorite shirt: not flashy, but comfortable and proven to make you feel good. Watch Men Don't Leave - it's a good little movie.
  • jckruize14 November 2003
    A true sleeper; a heartfelt drama with an odd title that isn't really 'about' any one thing, but ends up more truthful about life than most higher-profile Hollywood product.

    It's a movie that's rather slow and low-key, but stick with it. There are many wonderful moments along the way, both funny and poignant, conveyed with remarkable verisimilitude by a skilled cast. We've grown accustomed to the excellence of Jessica Lange, convincing here as a recent widow trying to make a new life for herself and her boys, but she's ably supported by Arliss Howard, Joan Cusack, and especially Chris O'Donnell and Charlie Korsmo, who play her sons.

    Director Paul Brickman hasn't made many films but this is surely his best; he also collaborated on its quietly-observed, slice-of life script with Barbara Benedek (THE BIG CHILL). Thomas Newman's spare, haunting score reveals why he's one of the finest film composers working today.

    Also, despite other user comments, this is not a 'tearjerker.' MEN DON'T LEAVE comes by its emotional impact honestly, with restraint and subtlety. Other filmmakers could learn a thing or two from Lange, Brickman et al. Highly recommended.
  • It usually takes me two viewings of a film to decide whether I think it is a great film. The second that "Men Don't Leave" ended I knew it was a great film. It tells the story of a middle aged woman (Jessica Lange) who moves her two sons to Baltimore following the death of her husband. There she meets a quirky musician (Arliss Howard) and her older son starts dating an equally quirky x-ray technician (Joan Cusack). This film is by turns joyful and heartbreakingly sad and features sure-handed direction by Paul Brickman and a beautiful score by Thomas Newman who also scored "American Beauty". The performances are wonderful, most notably Jessica Lange's and Joan Cusack's. If you're looking for a wonderful family drama with comedic moments then "Men Don't Leave" is for you. One of the best films of the 1990's.
  • Widow with two growing sons must become her family's breadwinner, keeping everyone's spirits up while dating again for the first time in many years. It doesn't surprise me that people have to see this picture twice or more to get into the movie's grooves. The handling is very focused, the writing gets us from A to Z smoothly enough, but the tone of "Men Don't Leave" is quirky, to say the least. Sometimes I wasn't sure whether to laugh or not. At times it seems to go overboard, other times it hits a perfect note yet doesn't follow through. Still, the overall effect of this movie is genuinely pleasurable. It's not a big, chancy movie with issues, it's quiet and small and heartfelt. There are little scenes of emotion that well up into big hurts (and disappointments like the lottery family that just KILL us), and all the acting is so wonderful, particularly Jessica Lange (a shaky tower of strength). I loved it when the German woman gets Jessica to dance, or when she gets a nosebleed while kissing Arliss Howard for the first time, or throwing all her muffins out the window while feigning basketball moves. And what about Kathy Bates as the boss from Hell? It's an erratic film (with a puzzling title), yet I admired it greatly, and it has stuck with me over all these years. ***1/2 from ****
  • I had originally seen this film at the theater with my 1st wife, and didn't think much of it. Being the only other film directed by the guy who did "Risky Business" - I had higher hopes for the movie than what I came away with. Over the years, however, especially after my 1st wife passed away - I was haunted with memories of this film, as I saw my life mimic many of the actions of the principle characters. For someone who hasn't had to deal directly with grief, this film probably will seem like just an odd little film. But the actions taken by Jessica Lange, Chris O'Donnell and Charlie Korsmo are all perfect prototypes of how people deal with grief and denial. Director Paul Brickman does so in an understated way, so that the film seems more light-hearted than the message it conveys.
  • Breadwinning husband and father dies and leaves wife and two sons nearly broke and homeless. Jessica Lange has never been better than here as Beth Macauly, a woman who is almost driven to insanity in the chaotic aftermath of her husbands death. Its not completely dark, though...there is quite a bit of humor as the family tries to adjust to the new environment and people that touch their lives. This film is one of the few model examples of all main characters performing the tasks they were assigned perfectly. Excellent acting through and through.
  • This film is certainly an exception. A remake from the French version "Hot Air Balloon", this film has many noteworthy aspects to it, including the excellent cast of Arliss Howard, Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Lange's troubled son Chris O'Donnell.

    Primarily Lange is a widower who has to sell her house and start over. She moves to a small apartment in Baltimore with her two children, who are not happy about it. She eventually finds work (there are some amusing scenes) for a catering company, owned by Kathy Bates (always a memorable character, in this case the tyrannical boss).

    Joan Cusack also adds humor to the latter half, having met O'Donnell, she starts dating him, Lange at first over-protective, then gradually becomes friends with Cusack. Cusack, as a therapeutic gesture, takes her on a hot air balloon. A seemingly silly gesture, but a metaphor for starting over. Well-done and never depressing, an excellent film worth viewing. 9/10.
  • I like this film. Jessica Lange is very good as a wife/mom of two sons. She abruptly finds herself a widow after her husband dies in a work related accident. This is a woman who is used to having a partner to help deal with family life & issues & suddenly everything is on her shoulders. She's deep in debt & overwhelmed. (The adorable) Chris O'Donnell is great as the older boy, playing a typical bratty teenager arguing with Lange over choices & decisions she must now make. He's very convincing in a scene with Arliss Howard, later in the film, that shows just how much his mom means to him. Charlie Korsmo is the younger, more agreeable boy. Yet he's filled with many issues, underneath the surface, dealing with his dad's death & their relocation to Baltimore. He takes to a new buddy's home life because he misses the conventional family he was used to, much to Lange's dismay as she tries desperately to keep her family together. Joan Cusack plays a quirky, domineering neighbor & "older woman" interested in O'Donnell. A leaner than usual Kathy Bates (almost unrecognizable because she's all farpitzed with makeup, trendy clothes & hairstyle) plays Lange's bitchy, bitter boss when she must now enter the workplace. Arliss Howard is also on hand as a love interest for Lange. Not that much emphasis is placed on their relationship because the main focus of the film is on Lange & her son's. Now for that title. IMO it can be taken two ways, as a plea or a statement. "Men Don't Leave" because you're family needs you, or "Men Don't Leave" a family's mind's & hearts after they've gone.
  • Lange is her usual extraordinary self, especially in that part of the film depicting--quite aptly--the onset of acute depression. Cusack deserves her oscar nomination--manages expertly one of the most appealing characters you will ever see on screen. Comedy, romance, and everyday tragedy put together

    in an affecting script that has few weak moments. If you are drawn to small films centered on human relationships that draw sniffles and chuckles of recognition and a welcome sigh of relief when it all turns out at the end, you will love this film.
  • Nice little movie with believable lines, characters you care about and great music. Joan Cusack stands out as the quirky yet sensible older girlfriend of Chris O'Donnell. And Jessica Lange never disappoints. One of those movies that you're never sorry you watched.
  • I was reminded of this movie after having seen this month's release RESERVATION ROAD. Both movies are about loss; RESERVATION flounders while trying to tackle the subject, while MEN nails it in every way.

    I will not go into detail about the storyline in order to keep it fresh for new viewers, so I'll summarize by saying the movie contains dozens of unforgettable moments, both comedic and dramatic. Every single character makes a lasting impression. Joan Cusack, Chris O'Donnell, Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates will all make your emotions soar between laughter, sadness and surprise without warning.

    I wish I could see this movie on a big screen again. Somehow a TV-sized screen doesn't do movies like this justice. (One scene in particular - Lange lost and confused in a hospital - lost its impact on the small screen for me.) But way better to see it any way you can, than not at all. Grade: A+
  • I have not seen the 1981 French film, La Vie Continue, which inspired this story, but thank goodness it did. This is one of the best cinematic hidden gems off all time. No, that is not an understatement. Seventeen years after being one of the few to see this film in a theater, I was fortunate enough to locate a VHS copy and have found that this it has aged perfectly. Bittersweet without being cloying, evenly-paced without dragging, it is the perfect antidote to the summer blockbuster season for those who don't necessarily consider "pulsating" a selling-point for a film.

    Jessica Lange once said in an interview that many people have told her this is their favorite film of hers. (She sums it up as "a happy movie about grief and depression.") She's great in it, as is a scene-stealing Joan Cusack and Charlie Korsmo as her younger son. But also given a chance to shine are the minor characters, some oddball musicians Lange's character meets and a then-unknown (but about to be known) Kathy Bates. (Credit also goes to screenwriter Barbara Benedek for their well crafted words.)

    This film has aged much better than Paul Brickman's only other directorial effort, Risky Business. One would never think the director of THAT could come up with a polar opposite like this, but fortunately he did. The fact that this is not on DVD is CRIMINAL!
  • You know the line "You had me at Hello"? Well, this movie had me at "The Geffen Company Presents..." There's just something so endearing about this quirky comedy. Sorry for the clichés, but I think just about everyone could find something about themselves in this story, even if they've never experienced depression. Some of my favorite movies mix comedy and drama, and this is a prime example (slightly more on the comedic side, but it's debatable). I also thought this was my first exposure to Kathy Bates, but I didn't realize until much later that I had already seen her in "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean" and in a bit part in "Two of a Kind". She's a chameleon; I still didn't recognize her 11 months later in "Misery." Cusack has an even better chance to shine. And as for Lange, for someone playing a character so weary, she's luminous. There's also an appearance by a woman who was semi-famous as a quirky waitress in Miracle Whip commercials ("How'd they know turquoise was mah color?") in this. She hilariously plays a musician here. But the real find was Charlie Korsmo (also in "Dick Tracy" later the same year), eleven years old at the time of filming but looking younger. Like Shirley Temple, I know he's an adult now, but I don't want to see him grown up. His performance is the heart and soul of "Men Don't Leave." I don't own a copy of it, because I'm afraid I might watch it every day. You either love it or you don't get it.
  • This story of a family which nearly falls apart after the abrupt death of one parent is probably one of the most under-rated films of the decade. Joan Cusack is a hoot - and Chris O'Donnell has a scene which makes the viewer realize that he really is a gifted and talented actor - he's just had some pretty boring roles lately. Jessica Lange, the bereaved wife, portrays ever-deepening depression in such a way that its totally believable - Frances Farmer without the dramatics. There are some laugh-out loud scenes as well. Guys would dismiss this one as "a chick movie" but my bet is they're secretly watching it when no one else is home.
  • This movie is carried by a great ensemble cast that gets better with repeated viewings. Jessica Lange and Joan Cusack and Kathy Bates are strong by first viewing. But you kind of get used to bratty Chris O'Donnel by second or third viewing. At least closer than any of his other lame performances. Oh and other guys are strong enough to compete with the women like Arliss Howard whose just fabulous with the likability quotient. Yeah, yeah it's predictable, there's no denying that. And the third act is probably the worst part of the movie, but the dialogue and acting is great and real sneaky at making you laugh and wince at the parts that seem like their set up to press the audience's buttons for hanky-grabbing at JUST the right second. But it's forgiven, merely because it isn't schmaltzy or cheesy, but a surprisingly good sleeper of a movie. Oh, but the similar ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE is better in my opinion. Though I'll follow Jessica Lange (why does she always have fingers over her lips?) over Ellen Burstyn any day of the week.
  • I saw this movie at the theater and fell in love with it on the spot. It is authentic and honest and heartfelt. It is one of the best movies about the grief journey I have seen. It manages to give background and flavor to each of the characters who spend time on the screen, a feat which is unusual in film. Kathy Bates performance is skillful, helping the audience understand an unsympathetic character. Jessica Lange, Arliss Howard and the child actors are understated. A lovely, heartfelt package. The movies' score and cinematography add to every shot and scene. To this day, I still hum some of the score and when I hear "Bella Notte", I remember Arliss Howard's serenade to Beth through the apartment door. See this film. See it and love it.
  • In Men Don't Leave, Jessica Lange has to cope when all three men in her life do just that. Her happy family is shattered when her husband dies in a tragic accident, and she's left alone to raise her two boys and manage expenses. I'm a big Jessica Lange fan, and she shines once again in what she does best: showing the audience she's about to crack without cracking. When other actresses fly off with their emotions, Jessica keeps hers contained with glistening eyes that show her turmoil.

    In addition to another solid Jessica Lange performance, you'll be treated to two other benefits if you watch this movie. Men Don't Leave has an interesting, compelling, realistic story, and a wonderful supporting cast. Jessica's sons are Chris O'Donnell and Charlie Korsmo in their film debuts, and they both show different struggles as they flounder in their new life without a father. Charlie gets into trouble, and Chris tries his hand at being the man of the house with a young, pretty neighbor, Joan Cusack. Both boys show a remarkable confidence in front of the camera for their first film, and Chris shows acting talents I've never seen in his other movies.

    Joan Cusack is sweet and sensitive, and it's clear she's trying to help with every line she delivers. Kathy Bates joins the cast as Jessica Lange's boss, and she's strong, magnetic, pretty, and energetic without becoming a caricature. Arliss Howard, a suitor, brings sensitivity to his role, giving the audience hope that there just might be one more nice guy out there in the world.

    It's pretty obvious I recommend this movie. With great performances and a realistic slice-of-life story that doesn't feel forced, symbolic, or dated, this movie will continue to stand the test of time.
  • Wuchakk27 February 2017
    Released in early 1990 and directed by Paul Brickman, "Men Don't Leave" is a drama with comedic elements about a mother (Jessica Lange) and two sons who lose their husband/father and must move to Baltimore to make it and overcome their grief. Chris O'Donnell plays the teenage son while Joan Cusack appears as his older girlfriend, an x-ray technician. Arliss Howard is on hand as a potential beau for the mother, a musician. Kathy Bates plays her new boss, the manager of a gourmet bakery.

    This movie's tragic, odd, dramatic, funny and inspirational, just like life. It respects the intelligence of the viewer as everything's not always spelled out. Roger Ebert complained about the predictability of the mother's meet-cute with the musician, which may be true, but he overlooked the many UNpredictable and offbeat elements of the movie, like the teen's relationship with the medical technician and her interesting relationship arc with the mother.

    He also complained about the film's depiction of clinical depression and its supposedly trite antidote, but – speaking as someone who suffered severe depression in the past; and overcame it without "meds" – this simply isn't true. Both the depiction and the remedy are real-to-life; the portrayal is sad with some realistic humor and inspiration thrown into the mix. What did he want? Her to take a pill and everything would be hunky-dory? The best thing for a person who's suffering depression is to get them out of the darkness of the bedroom and into the light of day; get them talking; give them something active to DO; and help them set some realistic goals that they can immediately start working toward, not to mention encourage some close, positive relationships, and discourage negative ones. The movie effectively shows this.

    The film runs 115 minutes and was shot in Baltimore, Maryland, and Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, Illinois.

    GRADE: B-
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have been waiting for this Gem to come out on DVD since the 90s and finally it's here. It's available only through Warner Bros. Archive Collection at $17.99 plus tax & shipping and unfortunately it is a bare-bones DVD with NO Extra Features. It was worth it to me as this film is so great. I agree with the bulk of the reviews here that: the acting is superior and riveting, the script and dialog are spot on, Paul Brickman (Risky Business) co-wrote and directed with aplomb. The story takes us through so many emotions but in the end we are rewarded for "taking the ride." Jessica Lange is always good but this is one of her finest performances. Arliss Howard is an unlikely "hero" and Chris O'Donnell and Charlie Korsmo are perfect as Lange's sons. The always quirky but dependable Joan Cusack is excellent as a care-giver nurse. Kathy Bates has a small role as Lange's boss and as always she makes the most of her performance. This is a very moving, emotional film and one of the Best of the 90s films.
  • This movie is really good. It could happen. Jessica Lange plays a widowed mother who has to support her children with her offbeat job, one a selfish teenager, two an unhappy loner. She has to move to Baltimore and-- oh what am I babbling for, see the movie, even though it was made eleven-years-ago.
  • Realism reigns supreme in this terrific melodrama. Despite a somewhat odd pace, Men Don't Leave manages to build into a remarkable journey for the viewer. This is in most part due to the wonderful work of an ensemble anchored by Lange. As a strong, pragmatic yet fragile widowed mother of two, Lange hits every emotional bullseye. I couldn't help but root for her-and cry with her-as she struggles to keep her small family (as well as her own sanity) intact, despite seemingly unsurmountable odds. Lange is aided by a top notch ensemble. Joan Cusack is hilariously disturbing as the no-nonsense nurse who dates Lange's teenage son, played by Chris O'Donnell. O'Donnell and Charlie Korsmo (as the younger son) both manage to astonish in their heart-tugging roles. A scene in which O'Donnell breaks down in front of Arliss Howard shows why the young actor would soon become a huge star. Props also go out to Kathy Bates, marvelous as Lange's tough-as-nails boss.
  • When I rented this movie about ten years ago, the only reason I got it was because I knew Jessica Lange was in it and she had been in so many good movies before that one. What a likable movie! I think the reason why someone would like this movie so much is because so many of the scenes in it you could really see happening. Watching this movie you realize how contrived and unrealistic most movies about "real life" are, which just made "Men Don't Leave" seem that much more offbeat and quirky.

    I love the part where Jessica Lange is so bored out of her mind that she starts chucking "Beth-cakes" out the window of their high-rise apartment just to have something interesting to do. The scenes with Joan Cusack (as a nurse (?) who just wants to "help people" whether they want her to or not) are great; as well as Arliss Howard as an untimely boyfriend Beth (Jessica Lange) is not quite sure what to do with. The ending of this movie was done just right, where it could have been easily done in a sappy and everything unrealistically happy way; the music was perfect too: haunting but with a sense of hope about it. Ultimately I think this movie is about the power of the human spirit to survive devastating life events and come out the other side, not quite the same as before but still able to go on and even thrive.
  • Paul Brickman's American remake of the inferior LA VIE CONTINUE is one of those kind of movies you stumble on by mistake. That's what made it even more enjoyable as I viewed on HBO. I have never heard of it, though the ensemble cast is energetic and full of famous faces of the present.

    The story has the ability to be funny and honest even as it becomes slightly melancholy with both death and near-death experiences.

    The performances, again, are great, especially Jessica Lange, because her character isn't a single mom who struggles hard to keep her family together. Things get so incredibly rough that she becomes uneasily passive, letting her oldest son sleep with an older woman (the wonderful Joan Cusack as a nurse living in the same building) and spending most of her unemployed days in bed.

    Other good performances come from Charlie Simon, proving you can be charming and sexy even with male-pattern baldness and Kathy Bates playing a character completely different from her usual sweet and struggling woman typecast (and it isn't even due to a Stephen King novel!!).

    It's strange how you can explain the story to a person and they take it as a depressing tale, while Brickman sprinkles so much hilarious moments in this feel-good-feel-bad-feel-good-again movie. Witness the great scene between Lange and her son played by Chris O'Donnell involving the use and authority of the S-word.
  • preppy-39 March 2001
    Widower Jessica Lange must move from the suburbs to the city (with her two sons) and learn how to make it on her own. Familiar story is very well-done. The acting is very good--Jessica Lange gives another great performance; Arliss Howard does a nice turn as a man who's attracted to her; Joan Cusack is uproarious as a very strange neighbor. The biggest surprise is how good Chris O'Donnell is. He's now considered one of the blandest (and lousy) actors out there...back in 1990 though, he was very good. His face actually changes expression and he's excellent in one scene where he tries to apologize to Howard. The film is very well-written--characters talk and act believably. Beautiful direction with an excellent music score too. My only complaint is the film is a little bit too long and there are very obvious cuts in scenes (I'm assuming to keep the running time down). Still, that's a minor complaint. Also, it's very moving and tear-jerking at the end. Well worth catching.
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