Fifty years ago Shirley MacLaine was doing adorable-pixie roles in movies like Irma La Douce and What a Way to Go! and Christopher Plummer was, well, the Captain in The Sound of Music. Both actors are doing just about the same thing in Elsa & Fred. She’s still an unstoppable force of life, and he’s still moping around the house. MacLaine doesn’t break into a chorus of “My Favorite Things” to shake him out of his doldrums, but she does insist that they re-create the fountain-jumping scene from La Dolce Vita. Which is not a bad way for an old curmudgeon to get his mojo back, it turns out.
[Originally published in Movietone News 58-59, August 1978]
The Turning Point is a gentle, properly humble film whose joys are nearly always thespian rather than cinematic. The oohs and aahs that have marked response to this film in just about every quarter are pitiable, since they only serve to overrate the film and prepare the viewer for disappointment. Audiences may find themselves feeling that they are expected to like it, because it is about serious art, because it is self-consciously ambitious, and not because of its smallness, which to me is the best thing about the film. It is precisely the filmâ€™s ability to be about so many things in a small way that makes it attractive. Its meandering plotline and gratuitous â€œrelevanceâ€ are the mark of a kitchen-sink approach to psychology and moralism; and the filmâ€™s most obnoxious trait is the tendency of its characters toward ponderous self-analysis and constant moral summation, distinctly remote from the province of most peopleâ€™s daily behavior.