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Alan Alda's middle-aged dramedy offers laughs and tears in equal measure. 4 Stars

Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons is an intelligently written and wonderfully produced romantic dramedy showing married life in its many ups and downs through a year of couples interacting with one another.

The Four Seasons (1981)
Released: 22 May 1981
Rated: PG
Runtime: 107 min
Director: Alan Alda
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Len Cariou
Writer(s): Alan Alda
Plot: Three couples vacation together every season. After one divorces, feelings of betrayal and more spawn criticisms of each other. But the things that keep them together are stronger than those which otherwise might pull them apart.
IMDB rating: 6.8
MetaScore: 55

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 48 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 12/14/2021
MSRP: $24.95

The Production: 4/5

Alan Alda’s middle-aged dramedy The Four Seasons offers us telling glimpses into various mid-life crises, the loss of youthful vigor and the increasing delicacy of our aging bodies, the complacency of comfortable friendships, and that horrible, throat-catching feeling that life is passing us by. While the auteur star-writer-director might have gone into a bit more depth with his characterizations, he’s provided entertaining roles for a sextet of fine veteran actors and one younger addition to the group who throws a wrench into the self-satisfaction that had been plaguing the friendships of these adults for years.

Three couples have been vacationing together for years: attorney Jack Burroughs (Alan Alda) and his wife Kate (Carol Burnett), dentist Danny Zimmer (Jack Weston) and his wife Claudia (Rita Moreno), and insurance salesman Nick Callan (Len Cariou) and his wife Anne (Sandy Dennis). Outwardly everything seems loving and above-board among the couples, but Nick is privately miserable. After twenty-one years of marriage to a woman he doesn’t really love, he leaves Anne and takes up with the much younger Ginny Newley (Bess Armstrong). The vacations among the couples continue but with Ginny now among the couples instead of Anne. Over the course of a year, feelings, secrets, grudges, and annoyances begin to surface with the changed dynamic infused into the group by the presence of a younger, more vital member.

Auteur Alan Alda not only stars in the film, but he has written and directed it as well, offering especially for the men a bittersweet look at creeping middle age and its effects on three guys who can’t quite accept that their bodies won’t always allow them the free spirited joy and abandon they enjoyed when younger. Alda makes that clear in two telling sequences: a rollicking soccer game in the Autumn section of the picture and a montage of snow hijinks at the start of the Winter section which results in a broken ankle for one of the men and some torn cartilage for one of the others. He begins with Spring (all seasons set to the music of Antonio Vivaldi’s four movement suite “The Four Seasons”). Here we get to see the easy camaraderie between the three couples (the men cook a lush Chinese dinner at Nick and Anne’s lakehouse), their genuine feelings for one another despite the eccentricities that all of them display, and the nagging sense that there is more of life waiting for them if they’re willing to dig for it. By Summer, Anne is gone and Ginny has replaced her keeping the other two couples awake on a Caribbean sailboat with her and Nick’s enthusiastic lovemaking and awkward-for-the-others public displays of affection. From then onward, Alda concentrates on the growing animosities and jealousies that surface among the friends allowing each one a moment to express frustration, fury, and regrets as friendships change just like the seasons. By the end, there is more understanding, but there are also lingering guilt and resentments.

While Alan Alda has written himself, Jack Weston, and Len Cariou juicy parts (Cariou especially is revealed during the film to not be the martyr he appears to be early on), he’s done less well with the roles played by Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno, and Bess Armstrong. Only with Sandy Dennis’ Anne has Alda reached a poignant character study that haunts us throughout the picture: what about the person who gets left behind? Truth to tell, as a single woman, she doesn’t fit into their couples’ dynamic and thus is expendable, and Dennis reveals the hurt in that fact in a masterful performance during the Autumn section. Alda has also provided a project to involve his entire family: his daughters Elizabeth and Beatrice play the children of Alda/Burnett and Cariou/Dennis, and Alda’s wife Arlene provided the photographs of vegetables that Dennis’ Anne is working on so steadfastly.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully represented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is generally excellent, and color saturation is wonderful, deep suntans and even some sunburn on Jack Weston’s face and legs made especially noticeable. There are occasional dust specks, but overall the image quality is outstanding. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack is strong and solid for a monaural recording of its era. The mounds and mounds of dialogue have been masterfully recorded, and the classical music background scoring and the telling special effects have been combined into a most effective aural experience. There are no problems with age-related anomalies like hiss, crackle, flutter, or pops.

Special Features: 2.5/5

Audio Commentary: author and film historian Bryan Reesman provides a thorough rundown of the makers and shakers of the movie though in talking about other couple-oriented dramedies, he (like another recent commentary I reviewed) errs in saying that the Oscar-winning Kramer Vs. Kramer was not a particular box-office success. In fact, the movie was among the top grossing movies of its year, and this kind of false movie trivia becomes accepted fact when it’s repeated often enough. He also didn’t seem to be aware that Alda’s Sweet Liberty is also available on Blu-ray from Kino.

Theatrical Trailer (2:25, HD)

Radio Spot (1:30)

TV Spot Ad (0:31, HD)

Kino Trailers: The Mephisto Waltz, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, Sweet Liberty, Betsy’s Wedding, The Front Page.

Overall: 4/5

Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons is an intelligently written and wonderfully produced romantic dramedy showing married life in its many ups and downs through a year of couples interacting with one another. Kino’s Blu-ray release is recommended for fans of the star cast and lovers of this kind of adult storytelling.

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Published by

Matt Hough

editor,member

View thread (4 replies)

Jeffrey D

Senior HTF Member
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Oct 15, 2018
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Jeffrey D Hanawalt
Thanks for the review. I watched this with the commentary on not long ago. Picture was fine, not great (there’s a shot in the Summer sequence that has vertical black lines running through the video), and even with inaccuracies in the commentary, I thought it was a good one- zero down time in the author’s thoughts. This has always been one of my favorite films.
 

JC Riesenbeck

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Nov 21, 2013
Messages
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California
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Joe
This was a blind buy for me mostly because of Alan Alda so I'll be looking forward to watching it. I'm hoping we'll eventually get a Bluray of Same Time, Next Year which I believe is a Universal release.