James L. Brooks has proven time and time again his comedic genius as a writer, producer, and director.
If you don't believe me, go back and watch the "Chuckles" episode from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and you'll see comedy writing at its finest. Or turn on FOX for a helping of a few episodes of The Simpsons, which I've become a fan of over the years because my kids were so obsessed with the show when it came on the air in 1989. Now, I'm the one who's obsessed. Brooks has earned his praise and numerous honors, which include a few Oscars for Terms of Endearment, as well as nods for Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets.
Unless you are a movie buff, a die-hard Burt Reynolds fan or both, you may have never come across Brooks' first screenwriting achievement, Starting Over, before. I had a chance to revisit the film (on DVD since 2005) for the first time since its 1979 theatrical release and it's a splendid comedy, filled with plenty of heart, humor, and warmth to lead you through a relaxing night at home.
I have a special place in my heart for this film, for you see this happens to be the film I saw with a young lady named Mary Elizabeth Ford in 1979. She eventually became Mary Elizabeth Ford Clay, my wife.
It was our third date and she just loved Burt Reynolds (still does). Loved, loved, loved him. I will admit, I liked Smokey and the Bandit and thought he was riveting in Deliverance, but the guy didn't keep me up nights (me, jealous?). But I adored Mary, so I agreed to take her to this new film of his.
To my suprise and delight, I loved the film and Reynolds' performance. In fact, I would say that it's the finest performance of his career. Reynolds himself has stated in interviews that his performance as the low-key Phil Potter is one of his all time favorites.