When the Vows Break (1995)

TV Movie   |  Not Rated   |    |  Drama


Patty Duke stars as a woman who represents herself in court when she receives a derisory divorce settlement.


6.9/10
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17 December 2002 | petershelleyau
Courting Justice
Patty Duke is Barbara Parker, an Oakland County housewife who divorces her husband Art (Art Hindle) after she learns he changes his life insurance to make their married daughter Susan (Megan Leitch) the sole beneficiary. The divorce judge Wendel Adams (Robin Gammell) contends that Barbara is to blame for the couple's incompatibility and therefore only gives her 2% of their shared assets and unsecured alimony. Barbara appeals by representing herself, claiming bias against women by Adams.

Duke is thin here perhaps in line with Art's request for Barbara to act as a show-wife, and she is lit to emphasise the lines in her face, perhaps to make her believable as a grandmother. Barbara being a person with low self-esteem allows Duke to make her discovery of her worth very likeable, and among her strong moments are her big eyes full of tears as she tells Art `I want a divorce', the look of defiance she gives Adams when he sees her sitting in on another of his cases, the way she tells her new lover Gene (Donnelly Rhodes) `I never realised what I've been missing out on' out of the side of her mouth re sex, and her look of dignified victory when Adams passes her when leaving his chambers. We also see Barbara play the piano and fly a plane, though Duke's skill isn't revealed in either.

The teleplay by Benita Garvin, based on a true story, has Barbara describe her marriage as `gone dead behind the eyes', and her life as `a life inside a glass case, like a butterfly, pinned to a velvet pad'. When Barbara makes her appellant speech, the idea that she is good doesn't rely upon Duke's obvious ability but rather Barbara's unrealised potential, and this is juxtaposed nicely with her caution about the relationship with Gene. Director Eric Till serves Duke well and her romance with Rhodes is particularly touching.

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Drama

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