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Sometimes it takes a great shock to remind us what our priorities
should be. We may take offense at the suggestion that our ambitions,
our lusts, and our greed are more important to us than the health and
safety and happiness of our loved ones, but how often do we find
ourselves acting as though they are? Sometimes the shock occurs in time
for us to rearrange our priorities. Sometimes it comes too late, and we
can only regret our foolishness.
Garry Marshall's Nothing in Common concerns just such a shock. After 34
years of marriage, Lorraine Basner (Eva Marie Saint) leaves her husband
Max (Jackie Gleason) because she can no longer tolerate his oppressive
silence. Over the course of three decades he has treated her at best as
a roommate, at worst as a handservant. Their marriage is barren, devoid
of affection and intimacy. Aside from their son David, they have
nothing in common anymore.
Max is devastated by his wife's departure, and too proud to admit it.
He would like nothing better than for her to return, but he is
unwilling -- perhaps unable -- to protest his love. The shock has come
too late for Max and Lorraine, and the blame belongs to both of them.
Max has indeed treated his wife shamefully, but she in turn has put up
with it. Thirty-four years is a long time to wait before lodging a
The shock has come just in time for David Basner (Tom Hanks), the
clever young adman always ready with a line -- for a client, for a
girl. He lives a life of constant change, moving blithely from one
presentation or seduction to the next, putting together a reel of
60-second commercials and 90-minute relationships as he goes. In his
preoccupation with the surfeit of choices in his smorgasbord life, he
has denied himself the opportunity to get to know his parents as people
and deprived them of the one thing they still have in common, their
son. The shock of their separation reminds him that he is neglecting
his responsibility to his parents; the discovery that his father will
require life-threatening surgery gives added urgency to his renewed
interest in their lives.
The shock also gives him pause to reflect on the shape of his own life,
to recognize that he has nothing in common with the sleeping partners
he picks out like actresses at a cattle call and that the childhood
sweetheart with whom he can identify may not be available forever.
Nothing in Common is an adult movie in the true sense of the term. It
offers a mature treatment of a subject of extreme importance to adults
in a country racked by divorce. It does not resort to nudity, coarse
language, or superficial sociological dialogue. It presents the breakup
of a marriage as an unmitigated tragedy, not as a grand opportunity for
the exploration of narcissism (as is the case with such shallow
contemporary films as An Unmarried Woman). It resolutely rejects the
irresponsible and amoral lifestyle celebrated in so much of modern
culture, and it encourages us to do likewise, by giving us an honest
picture of it. Nothing in Common is an adult movie with a PG rating, a
fine cast of characters, a skillful director, and an important story to
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