I am a fan of Dyan Cannon. She is an accomplished and reliable actress one of the great screen comediennes of her generation. It is really sad one can't see her in more parts and in more interesting ones. To someone like me who knows the USA largely through movies (thus belonging to the majority of Mother Earth's population), loud, energetic, tough and cute Dyan Cannon epitomizes the quintessential American woman. She does this in a very charming kind of way that never fails to delight me somehow she generates the same effects as Audrey Hepburn by being the exact opposite of that mondaine actress who also had big comic talents.
End of Innocence, written and directed by Cannon, is faintly reminiscent of some of Woody Allen's pictures. The movie tries to analyze the behavior of the main character and the way she conceives the people around her. Her life is reconsidered right from the start in the light of what is going to happen, as the viewer will understand after a while. It begins with a biographical part that moves on at a brisk pace and is really well edited, directed and written. A merry-go-round is used as a metaphor which is nice to watch but also somehow confusing. The story does not suggest that the main character's life moves in circles, it rather leads up to a nervous breakdown in a linear fashion as she continuously tries to be perfect and to please everybody, accumulating bad, unhealthy habits on the way.
The second part of the movie is dedicated to the redeeming qualities of an asylum for financially potent people. Group therapy and forced confinement do the trick: The main character gets off the pills, the reefers and the boyfriend who does not really care for her. She does not get off the really nasty, eternally quabbling or nagging parents though (after all, they pay for the treatment!). Apart from the good acting of Cannon and the other group members (among them Michael Madsen), this part offers little. It does not explain much to someone who is foreign to the world of psychiatric treatment. I failed to see the good of group therapy, and the comraderie between the group members appeared to be rather constrained.
It is not quite clear to what the title End of Innocence refers. The movie tells a story about coming of age (belatedly), the word innocence is probably used for expressing the absence of insight. I am aware that there is some moral scope attached to this movie: the main character wants to be a good person and to become a better one. And that is exactly the effect of the stay in the asylum. The woman remains the same, minus the bad habits. And the horse of the merry-go-round is replaced by a gift of the therapy group: a real white stallion of which the main character dreamed (right, with a prince on it). Again, the symbolism is endearing but not convincing. But then I wonder: Is it just that I don't understand the movie, that I don't understand America? Do people there really reduce their fellow men to a few selected behaviour patterns to become familiar with them? Is life really nothing more than an eternal "keeping up with the Jonses"? Is physical exertion (work out sessions with various instruments and occasional gymnastics with sexual partners in bed) only a means to keep a perfect shape, and not a natural way for humans to explore the world and its wonders? If these questions can be answered in the affirmative, then innocence is still intact.