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Chilly Scenes of Winter

Chilly Scenes of Winter
Joan Micklin Silver, the creative force behind films like Loverboy and Hester Street is also the director and co-screenwriter of 1979's Chilly Scenes of Winter, an offbeat comedy drama that provides entertainment value thanks to an edgy screenplay and a terrific ensemble cast.

The late John Heard plays Charles, a government employee who is lamenting about the loss of someone named Laura, as if she had died. It is soon revealed that Laura (Mary Beth Hurt) is a former co-worker of Charles, with whom he had an affair about a year ago for two months, before she returned to her husband and daughter. Having resisted the temptation for a year, Charles impulsively calls Laura and before we know it, the affair has begun allover again, or so it seems, as Laura's guilt about her marriage begins to develop as much as Charles' obsession with Laura.

The story begins cleverly because Charles is acting as if Laura died. But once we learn the real story of Charles and Laura, the story gives us a glimpse at the two months Charles and Laura were together before returning to this reunion, which Laura is fighting half-heartedly and Charles begins focusing his entire life around. Charles' obsession with Laura reminded me a lot of Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, but without the danger or mental health issues that Alex had. We know that Charles is not going to hurt Laura, but we also know that there's no way he's going to let her get away this time, evidenced in his actually confrontation with Laura's husband.

Despite the Fatal Attraction feel to the development of the central character, the film actually has more of a Woody Allen sensibility to it, rich with humor and squirm worthy moments and some colorful supporting characters, including Charles' mentally ill mother, his lazy roommate, and the blind man who runs the newsstand outside his office.

This film sustains interest because we really don't know how it's going to end until it ends. John Heard gives the performance of his career in the starring role and creates solid chemistry with Hurt, who is utterly charming as Laura. The legendary Gloria Grahame also offers her accustomed flashy turn as Charles' mother, but it's the challenging story and strong performances from the leads that make this worth watching.