(Air Date: Week Of 10/16/96)
Within the first few minutes of "To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday", we see that the always angst-ridden nor with any of the other repulsive characters in Michael Pressman's film of David Kelley's adaptation of Michael Brady's play.
Kathy Baker plays mean Aunt Esther who is determined to go to court on Monday to wrest Claire's custody away from Peter. After lots of over-obvious "my sister/your wife" dialogue, we learn that the court date is a big surprise to husband Paul (Bruce Altman). In real life, there's no way it could happen like that. It'd be easier to believe that Peter Gallagher and Michelle Pfeiffer as the late Gillian really do romp together on the dunes, at the risk of his own & his daughter's sanity. But wait, there's more. Claire Danes drinks a quart of zombies at a party with Freddie Prinze, Jr., then throws up on her father after Freddie kisses her good night. To play this landmark sequence with conviction, Danes reportedly got drunk for real. (Fake it next time, Kid, it ain't worth it!)
Considering the fact that everyone is running around being SO responsible AND SO miserable all the time, the fact that Gillian died while she and the whole clan EXCEPT HER DAUGHTER were smashed to the gills is never really addressed. They all have a lot to learn about vehicular and boat safety, but instead they sing and dance to M.O.R. crap from the seventies on the Karaoke, the men leer at the kids and whine and the women wrangle with esteem issues and whine. I must confess that to avoid family weekends at the beach every bit as excruciating as the one shown in this movie, I used to take off and hide out until the danger of involuntary togetherness was OVER. Even without that sort of background, you may feel that "To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday" is a movie that will make theatre switching at the multiplex seem like a great idea!
Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan
"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index
"Movie Magazine International" Home Page