Friday July 4, 1997
In the period piece "End of Summer," Jacqueline Bisset is radiant as a rich, aristocratic turn-of-the-century spinster who unexpectedly has a second chance at love. The hourglass silhouette, the long skirts, the leg o' mutton sleeves of the gowns of the era are highly becoming on Bisset in this 1995 Showtime production now receiving theatrical release. Bisset is "End of Summer's" key strength in a focused, reflective portrayal of a Victorian woman whose passion is imprisoned in false pride and the puritanical mores of her time and station in life.
Unfortunately, "End of Summer" is not on Bisset's level as producer-director and co-writer Linda Yellen wavers between Henry James and Harlequin romance. The writing, acting and directing are wildly uneven, with the result that the film's various anachronisms in production design and script are more distracting than they would be in a sturdier production. "End of Summer" cries out for the meticulously detailed and subtle Merchant Ivory touch, as it does for a co-star more along the lines of Tom Selleck than Peter Weller, an accomplished and versatile actor but miscast here as a dashing romantic leading man.
Bisset's Christine is spending the summer at a Saratoga Springs resort, where she is stunned to encounter Weller's Theo. The two were once students together, and a spark had ignited between them. But before it could catch fire, Theo was deeply hurt by another woman, a "shameless flirt." Once poor, Theo has made a fortune out west and has returned a rich--and unattached--man. In their sedate, proper fashion, things look promising for Christine and Theo when a reckless young woman (Amy Locane), daughter of Christine's close friends, turns up and sets her cap for Theo. Lots more complications ensue.
Inadequate writing and direction do Locane no favors and do even worse to Julian Sands as a singularly dense and deplorable clergyman. Yet the character of Madame Vera, a society adventuress of a certain age, is strikingly well-written and beautifully acted by Elizabeth Shepherd.
If "End of Summer" can be said to have made one point well, it is the vulnerable position women held in 19th century society. But it's a comment that's already been made in numerous better pictures in recent years.
End of Summer, 1997. R, for strong sexuality. A JGM Enterprises release of a Showtime production. Producer-director Linda Yellen. Executive producers Ted Sweanson & Karen Goodwin. Screenplay by Jonathon Platnick & Yellen. Cinematographer David Bridges. Editor Jan Northrop. Costumes Martha Mann. Music Patrick Seymour. Production designer Bob Ziembicki. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Jacqueline Bisset as Christine. Peter Weller as Theo. Julian Sands as Basil. Amy Locane as Alice.