A Review by Tom Condon,
(St. Martin Province)
I heard the title of this new independent film, I was expecting
a romantic comedy. Perhaps I was in store for a new version of
a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie. Boy, was I off base! Even though
it has some humor, Flannel Pajamas is a very serious film about
the relationship between two people, Stuart and Nicole from courtship
to living together, through two years of married life. It’s
a tough movie, highly intense. When it was over, I wasn’t
sure how to react. Flannel Pajamas is definitely not a “feel
good” movie. But it does get under your skin, and I’ve
been thinking about it for days.
The film begins with the first meeting of Nicole, a Catholic
from Montana, and Stuart, a Jewish New Yorker, in a New York diner.
Nicole has trouble keeping a job. Stuart is a very successful
marketer of Broadway shows. They hit it off well, and soon enter
into a romantic relationship. When Nicole loses her current job,
Stuart offers to assume her college debt. Then Stuart rents an
apartment in a high rise building with a spectacular view, and
the couple moves in together.
Pajamas follows the couple through their first Christmas together,
spent with Nicole’s dysfunctional family in Montana, and
then onto their marriage. Soon the honeymoon ends and they fight
about starting a family, getting a dog, Nicole starting a business,
and many other issues.
While the focus in clearly on Stuart and Nicole, the film does
a nice job of including their families and friends. One of the
points of Pajamas is that these significant others remain a part
of one’s life during the courtship and through the marriage.
Nicole’s parents and siblings have many divorces among them.
Her best friend, Jordan, carries on multiple relationships at
once. Stuart’s parents divorced as well. His mother moved
to Florida and has since died. Stuart’s brother, Tom, suffers
from psychological illness. When Nicole and Stuart marry, they
find themselves involved in all these other relationships, for
better and for worse. In addition, the difference in religion
and customs comes into play as well. It’s nice to see the
attention to religion. While it’s not a major part of the
story, it enters in to the lives of Nicole and Stuart. This couple
is a good illustration that living together before marriage does
not necessarily bode well for a successful marriage.
There is always so much going on in each scene of the film that
it demands a second viewing. Writer-director Jeff Lipsky based
some of the film on his own first marriage. He deserves a great
deal of credit for not underestimating the intelligence of his
audience. The characters are as complex as real human beings.
They never resort to stereotypes. Flannel Pajamas demands the
attention of the audience; it’s not a film one can watch
while carrying on a conversation or walking back and forth to
the concession stand.
There are many memorable scenes in the film. One is Tom’s
toast at Stuart and Nicole’s wedding. Stuart is anxious
when his unpredictable brother rises. The authentic beauty of
Tom’s emotional toast is a lovely, unexpected moment. Later
there’s a magnificent scene in a hospital cafeteria between
Stuart and his mother-in-law Elizabeth. Elizabeth, who is battling
Alzheimer’s, frankly, yet matter-of-factly, gives her impressions
of Stuart, his marriage to Nicole, and other family details. It’s
a remarkable moment, catching Stuart, and us, totally off guard.
Actress Rebecca Schull, best known for her role in the long-running
TV comedy Wings, deserves an Oscar nomination for this scene.
Flannel Pajamas is a difficult, although ultimately rewarding,
film. The emotional tone gets progressively darker as the film
progresses. The sex scenes, between Nicole and Stuart are intense.
Julianne Nicholson and Justin Kirk head a fine cast.
Flannel Pajamas is scheduled for a limited release in November.
If you’re interested in an intelligent, unflinching film
about the complexities of marriage and human relationships, see
Flannel Pajamas. If you’re looking for a romantic comedy,
I suggest you look for a Doris Day movie at your local video store.
Tom Condon, OP