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  Serial I'm OK, You're OK
Year: 1980
Director: Bill Persky
Stars: Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Jennifer McAllister, Sam Chew Jr, Sally Kellerman, Anthony Battaglia, Bill Macy, Nita Talbot, Pamela Bellwood, Barbara Rhoades, Ann Weldon, Peter Bonerz, Jon Fong, Christopher Lee, Patch Mackenzie, Stacey Nelkin, Tom Smothers
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Harvey Holroyd (Martin Mull) is a businessman who lives in Marin County, California, with his wife and teenage daughter, but is beginning to wonder if he's in the right place. This is where the hippies came to settle down after the sixties, so the atmosphere is rife with self-actualisation and getting in touch with your inner worth, something Harvey is growing increasingly exasperated with, especially when it means he doesn't have sex with his wife Kate (Tuesday Weld) in the mornings because she wants to discuss the way their marriage is going...

And Harvey is not the only character struggling with the modern world of the seventies, in what looks on the surface to be a goodnatured satire on trendy thinking but as it goes on reveals itself to be a far more savage glare at what Harvey would describe as, well, bullshit. It's a source of humour very particular to these people and this place, and you're left in no doubt that much of this was not far removed from the truth, with director Bill Persky, a sitcom veteran making a rare foray into film, skewering the frankly delusional outlook here.

Mull shows he could have easily carried more films in the George Segal vein, if only they were still being made as the eighties progressed: Serial felt like a throwback to the previous decade even then, but now you can appreciate it with more clarity, when you're a little more detatched from the time it hails from. Harvey manages to keep his cool, but his sarcastic asides can be very funny as he appears to be the sole character who has some semblance of having his feet on the ground, or at least somewhere nearer to it than everyone else.

Harvey's best friend is Sam (Bill Macy, great), who has similar problems to him but can get through the day if he knows that he can settle down with The Johnny Carson Show at the end of it. Both men suffer similar crises as the plot goes on, but Harvey adapts to them more successfully than Sam, offering a darker side to what could have been a fluffy comedy. The problems arising include Harvey's daughter Joanie (Jennifer McAllister) joining a love and peace religious cult that will not let her go, even when she gets bored of it, and Kate deciding that they should separate for a while to see where their marriage is heading and if it has a future.

This provides the film with plenty more opportunities for humour, and if there are no real fall on the floor laughing gags, Serial does offer a consistent run of chortles and chuckles, such as when Harvey, feeling adventurous, visits an orgy at a specialist nightclub but is too embarrassed to participate, or when Kate's friend Martha (Sally Kellerman) goes through yet another marriage ceremony of the kind where the couple make up their own painfully sincere vows, which features the groom admitting he is an "asshole". The most telling scene comes where Kate and Martha are getting drunker and their rambling pronouncements on life don't sound much different from the other, similar characters when they are sober. All this and Christopher Lee in a surprise role add up to a sharp-witted reaction to aggravation born of hippy-dippy cluelessness; it does not apply to everyone, but you get the impression the makers knew of which they spoke. Music by Lalo Schifrin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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