Film: Melanie (1982)

October 10, 2014 | By


Melanie1982_poster_sFilm: Very Good

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Genre:  Drama / CanCon

Synopsis: An illiterate woman travels from Texas to Los Angeles to retrieve her son from an abusive husband.

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In spite of its melodramatic wrap-up, Melanie is an oddly affecting little drama, largely because of Glynnis O’Connor’s strong yet understated performance of an illiterate mother who travels from Texas to California in search of son Tyler (Jamie Dick) snatched from her arms by war vet husband Carl (Don Johnson).

O’Connor’s early career is filled with roles of vulnerable yet strong-willed young women and director Rex Bromfield doesn’t rush the actors nor scenes, allowing us to watch Melanie’s struggles to reach Los Angeles, plead her case to lawyer Walter (Paul Sorvino), and leave her son in the hands of a drunk and abusive husband. The film could easily have been a by-the-numbers TV movie with clichéd scenes, but the film’s first half unfolds very slowly, allowing Melanie’s challenges to resonate before the first of several small steps appear, allowing her to regain self worth, and ultimately retrieve her son.

It is a bit too easy for Melanie to find the house in L.A. where childhood friend Ronda (Trudy Young)  lives with fading rock star Rock (Burton Cummings, who also wrote original songs for the film), and the romance between Rick and Melanie is a little to pat to accept, especially the finale where all ends very well for Melanie and her new family, but Cummings is quite strong in his lone dramatic role, and Young is very likeable. Paul Zaza’s score is never maudlin, and Richard Ciupka’s cinematography is really lovely, filling the screen with lovely natural colours, and making L.A. look less garish in spite of the locations in ritzy and skeezy locales.

Although Murray McLaughlin penned the song that plays over the main titles, Cummings’ songs take over once Melanie arrives in L.A., and they’re an interesting mix of material meant to illustrate a rocker’s struggles to find the right song to launch his long-delayed second album. (The main song is eventually heard in the finale and end credits, bleeding from a concert to a cast recap.) There’s a good progression as the song evolves from hand-slammed piano keys and incomplete lyrics to a more mellow, intimate ballad, and Cummings’ natural likeability ensures Rick doesn’t come off as a pretentious one-hit wonder.

Pre-Miami Vice (1984-1990) Don Johnson is adequate in a fairly one-note role – why and how he’s able to suddenly leave the day after returning is never properly explained, and his drinking apparently never interferes with his job – and L.Q. Jones (Major Dundee, The Brotherhood of Satan, A Boy and His Dog) has an unbilled role as a local bartender. (Donann Cavin, however, is impossible to believe as a 14 year old teen whom Melanie encounters en route to California.)

Among the films written by Robert Guza and produced by Peter R. Simpson (which include the slasher films Prom Night and Curtains), Melanie has vanished from distribution, having appeared on TV and an old Vestron videotape before being reduced to blocky rips on YouTube. Neither middling nor dull, Melanie’s a small film deserving a proper release, especially considering its cast and Ciupka’s lovely cinematography.

Most of the top-level cast would enjoy lengthy careers, but this was Trudy Young’s career swan song, having worked her way up through Canadian TV (Razzle Dazzle, The Starlost) and a handful of iconic CanCon and tax shelter classiques, including The Reincarnate (1971), Face-Off (1971), Running (1979), and The Last Chase (1981).



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan



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