Always (1989) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Steven Spielberg’s heart-felt remake of the 1943 romantic drama A Guy Named Joe, is like a wholesome variation on Ghost. Take out the sexual exploits and murder mystery sub-plot of that film, infuse it with a serious case of the “cutes” and you’ll get a good idea what Always has in store for viewers. Reuniting Dreyfuss with his Jaws collaborator, the two apparently have a deep affection for the source material. Perhaps this respect was too great, resulting in a curiously small-scale, silly and downright flat experience.

The story has been transformed from WWII to modern times, with fire-fighting pilots replacing bomber fliers as the principal characters. Dreyfuss is Pete Sandich in the role originated by Spencer Tracy, as an experienced pilot who dies in a crash trying to save his best friend,played by John Goodman. He is given a chance to return to Earth and pass on his expertise to a novice pilot and to help his former lover, Dorinda (Holly Hunter) get on with her life.

Pete finds it difficult to let go of his feelings as he witnesses Dorinda fall in love with the young pilot. This is a straight-forward and simple story dressed-up with the Spielberg-ian touches common during the era. Excellent cinematography, set design and lighting convey the appropriate mood and enhance the film’s deeper meaning.

I almost feel guilty harping on a movie that has such good intentions and has been crafted by some of the professions top talent. But the fact remains, Always just doesn’t fully work. Dreyfuss and Hunter don’t produce a sufficient amount of chemistry to engage us emotionally in the spiritual journey taken. Goodman is amusing but his saint-like character has no function other than to act as a plot function. Always is solid in all areas and spectacular in a few, but the film is bland and never achieves the emotional impact it desperately strives for.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman

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