1982 gay love story ‘Making Love’ had high hopes, but made little impact

Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson in 'Making Love'
Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson in 'Making Love'
Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson in ‘Making Love’

[rating=1]Starring: Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson, Harry Hamlin, Wendy Hiller, Arthur Hill, Nancy Olson
Director(s): Arthur Hiller
Writer(s): A. Scott Berg and Barry Sandler

It’s hard to say whether Making Love was groundbreaking or merely sensational when it was released 24 years ago, but the slight soap opera certainly made little impact either way.

Arthur Hiller, director of the sob-fest Love Story a decade earlier directs this predictable story of homosexuality and infidelity. Erstwhile small screenstar Michael Ontkean is Zack, a successful young doctor in Los Angeles married to the equally successful Claire (Kate Jackson, on of Charlie’s original Angels). When Bart McGuire (hunk du jour Harry Hamlin), a sexually adventurous writer, enters the fray, everything changes. Soon Zack finds himself distancing himself from Claire and pursuing a heretofore repressed homosexual inclination.

Love was a hotly anticipated film when it was first released, as the long-awaited “gay” movie, but it does little justice to its theme – or any theme, for that matter. A. Scott Berg’s story is a just-the-facts treatment that never digs any deeper than its tagline. Zack and Claire’s marriage is presented cookie-cutter style, suggesting no chemistry, history or nuance at all. Why would Zack stray? We don’t know any more than we know why he was attracted to Claire in the first place.

There is nary any more heat generated between Ontkean and Hamlin, who appear drawn together only because puppeteers are telling them to do so. Hamlin doesn’t know how to play Bart, a commitment-shy lothario, and one never believes he could actually be a writer. Or perhaps he can only be as good as his creator. With dialogue like “If it feels good, do it. You don’t get any points for playing by the rules,” Berg (who also co-wrote Katharine Hepburn’s posthumous memoir) and Barry Sandler haven’t exactly crafted the sequel to Citizen Kane here.

So what we get is a movie that takes no chances, particularly in the area of sexuality. There doesn’t need to be graphic sex or nudity to make for a convincing relationship between any character here, but this by-the-numbers script and the male actors’ tentative relations with one another (most likely due to discomfort on Hamlin’s and Ontkean’s parts) make for a very unconvincing movie. Poor Jackson stands alone as a model of dedication, but dancing as fast as she can isn’t enough to keep this turkey from gobbling.

Rated: R
Run Time: 1 hr., 53 mins.

Douglas Strassler

Doug Strassler is a freelance writer and lifelong pop culture junkie. A 2001 graduate of the University of Virginia, he currently lives in New York City. His proudest accomplishment remains having Anthony Hopkins say that he likes him.

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