Bed and Breakfast: Family Melodrama Starring Colleen Dewhurst

Set on the breathtaking coast of Maine, Bed & Breakfast is an old-fashioned family melodrama about the effects of a charming stranger on a household of squabbling women.

The three-generational plot and the towering performance of the late Colleen Dewhurst could have had some appeal among female viewers, but the film is so predictable and sentimental that it will be quickly forgotten at the box-office, making a fast route to video.

Claire (Talia Shire), the young widow of a famous errant (Kennedy-like) senator, runs a bed and breakfast owned by Ruth, her feisty mother-in-law (Colleen Dewhurst). The generational rift between the anxiety-ridden, repressed Shire and her rebellious adolescent daughter (Nina Siemaszko) occupies most of the narrative. However, the depressingly stagnant household begins to change, when the body of a mysterious stranger (Roger Moore), a con man pretending to be amnesiac, washes ashore. Named Adam, the women hire him as a handyman. Soon Moore’s charismatic presence motivates them to renovate the run-down house, forcing each woman to reassess her unfulfilled life and start afresh.

Theatrical sensibility permeates the film’s conflicts, usually staged as confrontations between two characters. Cindy Myers’ perfunctory script offers no narrative surprise–the few good bits are embedded in a schematic structure. Though scripted by a woman, the film’ sexual politics is a throwback to the l950s, reminding of the work of William Inge (Picnic). Colleen Dewhurst sums up the yarn’s message when she tells Talia Shire: “You’re the only one who can’t handle that there is a penis in the house.”

It could have been fun to watch the always tanned and glamorous Moore in the midst of three bickering women, all attracted to him. But the film uses melodramatically conceived characters and situations without giving the viewers the satisfactions–the juice–of the form.

Helmer Robert Ellis Miller, who directed the deliciously bright comedy Reuben, Reuben with Tom Conti, has not done himself proud. He handles the film gently, showing too much respect for the slight material. Miller’s generosity to the actors also has the unfortunate effect of exposing Myers’ lackluster script.

Still, Bed & Breakfast is the kind of small, intimate picture that actors revere. The stunningly sensual Dewhurst, in one of her last screen roles, dominates every scene she is in, making the lusty and down-to-earth Ruth at once credible and enchanting. She provides the only reason to see this amiable but timid film. It is refreshing to see Talia Shire, who is married to producer Schwartzman, in a different kind of role from those she played in the Rocky and Godfather films. Roger Moore, gracefully aging in his post-James Bond era, gives one of his characteristically effortless but shallow performances.

Everything about the film is literal, from the women’s hairstyle (pulled back before Moore appears and down after his arrival), to the name they choose for the stranger. With the exception of a few impressive outdoor shots of Maine’s seascape, Sova’s camera observes the story with dispassionate efficiency. David Shire’s music comments on the action and inflates the emotions that the story attempts to arouse.

Credits

A Hemdale Pictures release of a Jack Schwartzman production. Produced by Schwartzman. Co-producer, Marcus Viscidi. Directed by Robert Ellis Miller. Screenplay, Cindy Myers. Camera (color), Peter Sova; editor, John F. Burnett; music, David Shire; production design, Suzanne Cavedon; art direction, Ron Wilson; set decoration, Tracey Doyle; costume design, Jennifer Von Mayrhauser; sound (Dolby), Mike Rowland; casting, Dianne Crittenden. Reviewed at the Beverly Center Cineplex, L.A., August 11, 1992. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 98 minutes.

Cast

Adam……….Roger Moore
Claire……..Talia Shire
Ruth…..Colleen Dewhurst
Cassie…..Nina Siemaszko
Amos……….Ford Rainey
Mitch…….Jamie Walters