BetteBack April 4, 1997: New York Times – That Old Feeling Review

New York Times
April 4, 1997


Psychologists say that children of divorce yearn for the reunion of their parents.

But for Molly, about to be married to a white-haired Republican senator’s all-American son with congressional ambitions of his own, that dream is a nightmare. Her parents — Lilly, a flamboyant actress who just happens to be played by Bette Midler, and Dan (Dennis Farina), a popular writer whose novels feature murdered actresses — loathe each other.

So it is only to please her fiance that Molly (Paula Marshall) agrees to allow Lilly and Dan, who haven’t seen or spoken to each other in 14 years, to attend her wedding. They arrive with their spouses — Rowena (Gail O’Grady), the voluptuous red-haired decorator who seduced Dan in Lilly’s bed, and Alan (David Rasche), the psychobabbling marital counselor who confused business and pleasure when Lilly’s marriage to Dan went sour.

Before long, of course, Lilly and Dan are screamingly at each other’s throats. But when Molly banishes them to the parking lot till they cool off, wonder of wonders, Lilly and Dan passionately rediscover that old feeling inside one of the sportier cars.

That Old Feeling” is also the title of this raucous, high-spirited romantic comedy, which zips along under the direction of Carl Reiner, working from a script by the sharp-witted Leslie Dixon. Ms. Dixon provided Ms. Midler with another well-constructed comic vehicle, “Outrageous Fortune,” a decade ago.

Soon after Lilly and Dan reignite their flame, they run off together, leaving behind two unraveling spouses and a newlywed couple. Molly’s politically sensitive husband, Keith (Jamie Denton), is eager to recapture and separate Lilly and Dan before the tabloids get hold of the story. And Molly, who thinks she yearns for what she calls a “normal” marriage, is eager to restore the order that she has known for the previous 14 years: Dan and Rowena and Lilly and Alan.

At this point, Molly gets the bright idea of tracking Lilly through Joey (Danny Nucci), the seemingly obnoxious young paparazzo who specializes in popping up wherever Lilly is, including the wedding.

And the chase is on, with Molly and Joey as the hunters, the madcap and mischievous Lilly and Dan as the prey, and Rowena, Keith and Alan huddled together in a dangerous combination of rejection, anger and hope.

Ms. Dixon’s lines enable Lilly to compare the left side of her face to a wheel of Brie and to advise her daughter that the 20s are for having sex with all the wrong people. Dan gets to tell Lilly, “You were faithful like a Kennedy is faithful.” Keith tells Molly, “This is what being a politician’s wife is about: damage control.” And the unraveling Alan asks Rowena, “Is any part of your face or body original?”

Reiner and Ms. Dixon pack a lot of comic smarts into “That Old Feeling,” and their expert cast makes the most of it. The soundtrack, with popular standards by Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and the Gershwins, among others, adds to the fun.

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