The Olive Films February 21, 2017 DVD release of the 1990 Mary Tyler Moore/ Bernadette Peters Made-for-TV Movie "The Last Best Year" further verifies that that company chooses wisely and diversely when selecting films and television series to add to the Olive library. Olive releasing "Year" on the same day as the (Unreal TV reviewed) Blu-ray of the 1950s kiddee matinee serial "Panther Girl of the Kongo" is a minor example of this range.
This few-laughs drama obviously is intended both to highlight the dramatic chops with which Moore amazes her still-adoring in 2017 public in the 1980 classic film "Ordinary People" and to provide viewers a darkly bizarro version of a Mary-Rhoda style friendship. Seeing Moore play opposite Peters is cool because the latter is the star of a little-known (but very good) '70s-era CBS Monday night sitcom titled "All's Fair."
The following YouTube clip of the "Year" trailer unfortunately misrepresents this interesting and well-acted film as an "SCTV" style parody of lesser examples of its genre. The lesson this time is to not believe everything that you see.
Peters plays single career-gal Chicago-based travel agency executive Jane Murray, who discovers early in "Year" that she has cancer. The lack of family and close friends to help Murray cope with this death sentence prompts her physician to refer her to psychologist Wendy Haller, whom Moore perfectly portrays, to help her cope. Additional drama comes in the form of trauma in the past of Haller making her resist accepting Murray as a patient.
Two introductory meetings cause Haller and Murray to bond in a manner that creates both a therapist-patient relationship and a friendship. The mutual benefits include Haller helping guide Murray to get her emotional affairs in order before she passes and Murray prompting Haller to deal with both her mommy and her daddy issues.
A very comforting thought in the hostile and divisive world in 2017 is that Murray finds that she is loved to the extent that people rally around her in completely unexpected ways. Though the man in the life of Murray ls a heel, her administrative assistant making an overture regarding an after-hours friendship leads to nice bonding. Further, the reaction of the owner of the agency far exceeds any that anyone in his position today would likely copy.
A sadder aspect of this is that "Year" accurately portrays the existence of Murray as one in which her friends and co-workers fill the void left by absent relatives. It is rare that those of us with living kin have familial relationships that are the things of which Norman Rockwell paintings are made.
Many of us can relate to the isolation that Murray feels and can only hope that the love that she discovers is more than the thing of which TV Movies of the Week are made. We further can relate to doing our jobs well but lacking confidence regarding that talent being acknowledged.
All of this culminates in strong final scenes. The group of supporters get a chance to provide Murray a special day, and a surprise visitor during the final scenes is the last piece in the puzzle that is the life of Murray.
Largely due to the talents of Moore and Peters, "Year" does not descend into melodrama territory. There are no buckets of tears, flung household objects, or "Damn it, James" moments. The characters merely express their emotions in a more restrained manner than many of us would under the same circumstances. Similarly, we relate to Haller and Murray but do not connect with either nearly to the extent to which they bond with each other.
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