DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS 7 (director/writer: John Sayles; cinematographer: Austin De Besche; editor: John Sayles; music: Mason Daring/Timothy Jackson/Bill Staines/Guy Van Duser; cast: Mark Arnott (Jeff Andrews), Gordon Clapp (Chip), Maggie Cousineau (Frances Carlson), Brian Johnston (Norman Gaddis), Adam LeFevre (J.T.), Bruce MacDonald (Mike Dawnly), Maggie Renzi (Kate Sipriano), David Strathairn (Ron Desjardins), Jean Passanante (Irene Rosenblue), Amy Schewel (Lacey Summers), Karen Trott (Maura Tolliver), John Sayles (Howie); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: William Aydelott/Jeffrey Nelson; MGM Home Entertainment; 1980)

 
"The much praised film upon its release, a tribute to indie filmmaking, seems to have badly dated."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Sayles ("City of Hope"/"Matewan"/"The Brother from Another Planet") after having written scripts for Roger Corman, Battle Beyond the Stars and Piranha, came up with the bread (around $45,000) to direct, write, edit and act in his first solo directorial venture. The ensemble film, cast with unknowns, is a comedy/drama with political overtones that's a precursor to The Big Chill (1983).

It's about seven friends, during their college days in the 1960s, who drove by car from Boston with marijuana in the trunk and were arrested in Secaucus, New Jersey, on their way to a 1970 peace protest in Washington D.C.'s Pentagon. At the New Hampshire (filmed in North Conway, N.H.) rental summer home of Kate (Maggie Renzi) and Mike (Bruce MacDonald), high school teachers in Boston who live together, their best friends, who called themselves the Secaucus 7 after that incident ten years ago, are invited for a reunion now that they all have turned thirty. Over the course of the weekend we get to hear of their past and present lives, their changed lifestyles and their romances. The guests include the irresponsible guitar player J.T. (Adam LeFevre), an aspiring but untalented country music singer trying to get up enough nerve to go to Los Angeles to take a crack at the big time; political activist Irene (Jean Passanante), now working as a speechwriter in a Democratic senator's office; Irene's uptight straight boyfriend Chip (Gordon Clapp) from the workplace, a believer in the system, not known to the others; Frances (Maggie Cousineau) an intern; and Maura (Karen Trott), a would-be actress, and Jeff (Mark Arnott), a drug counselor, who arrive separately after their surprise breakup. Also around is Ron (David Strathairn), the local gas station attendant, a high school classmate of Mike's who never left town. The mechanic Ron ends up shacking up with the doctor Frances for the weekend.

The much praised film upon its release, a tribute to indie filmmaking, seems to have badly dated and its flaws now stick out like the wrinkled skin of the aged, as what once was considered a hip classic is now mostly trite, stagy and passe. Though it still retains a warm feeling for the ordinary folks presented, who are endearing in their new maturity and their intricate personal emotional problems.

REVIEWED ON 5/28/2008        GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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