Steve Simels
June 01, 1990 AT 04:00 AM EDT

An Unremarkable Life

Current Status
In Season
Patricia Neal, Shelley Winters, Mako
Amin Q. Chaudhri
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Marcia Dinneen

We gave it a C-

An Unremarkable Life proves that the road to dull moviemaking is paved with good intentions. A sensitive, autumnal domestic drama, it grapples with some important issues and earns points for providing the kind of meaty roles that are too scarce for actresses over a certain age. In the end, though, it comes across like a ponderously well-meaning public-television drama.

Patricia Neal and Shelley Winters star as 60-ish sisters whose relationship falls apart when Neal takes up with a widowed garage mechanic. That’s not a particularly fresh premise, but the amateurish script by Marcia Dinneen doesn’t even do it justice. She introduces throwaway characters whose only purpose is to explain the motivations of other characters. And the script is packed with stock situations (widowed Winters is jealous of never-married Neal’s freedom) and heavy-handed metaphors (in her youth, the virginal Neal turned her back on an aviation career — talk about fear of flying).

To their credit, and against the odds, both Neal and Winters try to keep the audience awake, handling the cliched material with professional aplomb. On the other hand, ex-Conan star Mako (as the mechanic) barely negotiates a role that appears to have been written for the Karate Kid‘s Pat Morita, and director Amin Chaudhri keeps things moving at an all-too-deliberate speed. In short, An Unremarkable Life is a sleeper in the literal sense of the term.

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