DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Comedy at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main

Paul Mazursky
Jill Clayburgh, Alan Bates, Michael Murphy
Writing Credits:
Paul Mazursky

After years of marriage, Erica explores the new world of 1970s sexual liberation.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 124 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/9/2020

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Mazursky and Actor Jill Clayburgh
• Interview with Actor Michael Murphy
• Interview with Actor Lisa Lucas
• Interview with Author Sam Wasson
• “Paul Mazursky at the AFI” Audio Recording
• Trailer
• Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


An Unmarried Woman: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1978)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 31, 2020)

Ah – the 1970s, the era of sexual liberation! Not that I understood any of this at the time – I remained a pre-teen through the end of the decade, so all that stuff escaped my purview.

For a time capsule of the period, we head to 1978’s An Unmarried Woman. Here we meet middle-aged Erica Benton (Jill Clayburgh), an employee at a Manhattan gallery.

Married to Martin (Michael Murphy) for 16 years, Erica’s husband abruptly ditches her for a younger woman. This leaves Erica single for the first time since the Kennedy administration.

Initially intimidated by all the social changes over that time span, Erica slowly dips her toe in the dating pool. This leads her to explore her own desires and needs as she evolves.

As noted at the start, the sexual climate of the 70s meant nothing to me at the time due to my age. However, that doesn’t mean Unmarried escaped my radar, as I paid enough attention to movies back then to know of its existence, especially since the movie earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Unmarried lost to The Deer Hunter. This meant I never got around to a viewing of Unmarried until this Criterion release.

Back in the 1940s, Hollywood produced “social issues” movies like Gentleman’s Agreement and Lost Weekend. While well-meaning, these films felt more concerned with their attempts to further particular causes than with story and characters.

Expect a 1970s counterpart to those themes with Unmarried Woman. The movie wants much more to tell us about societal evolution than to provide a good story, and that causes issues.

Though I admit Unmarried could have gone way too far in its depiction of Erica as the Wronged Woman. While it doesn’t make Martin especially sympathetic, the film also doesn’t turn him into an abusive cad, and that allows more dimensionality to the tale than otherwise might become the case.

Nonetheless, Unmarried feels disconnected from the real world, and the decision to make it take place in “Woody Allen’s Manhattan” seems like a mistake. Frankly, I find it tough to care a whole lot about the social lives of a bunch of pampered upper-class New Yorkers, as Erica’s existence appears to revolve around little more than brunch and cocktails.

Not that movies about relationship issues among well-to-do New Yorkers can’t work, as this same era’s Kramer vs. Kramer holds up pretty nicely. However, the genre seems problematic at its core, and if not done well, it backfires.

That happens with Unmarried, as it feels like a man’s version of a feminist perspective. Doesn’t it seem strange that a movie about female sexual evolution comes written and directed by a male?

Some stories can survive “cultural appropriation”, but Unmarried doesn’t seem like one of them. The film desperately needs a female touch that it lacks.

This means we get one-dimensional characters, even at the core with Erica. While she goes through an arc, it feels contrived and unnatural.

Much of the time, Unmarried comes across like scenes based on lessons from 1970s self-help books. Erica’s path doesn’t seem organic, as instead it resembles a bunch of stereotypical boxes that the filmmakers check.

All of this also seems profoundly dated. Like those 1940s social issue films I mentioned, I respect that Unmarried attempts cinematic evolution, as it presents a different perspective about sex and women that wouldn’t have occurred in earlier years.

Admirable as the movie’s goals may be, the execution falters. Nothing in Unmarried seems natural or believable, so we end up with a melodrama that lectures more than it engages.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

An Unmarried Woman appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a good representation of the source.

Sharpness mostly looked fine. Some shots came across as a bit soft and ill defined, but those instances didn’t occur with any great frequency, and they occasionally seemed to reflect the original photography, as the movie sometimes opted for a gauzy look. While not the world’s most precise image, it appeared positive.

I saw no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a good layer of grain, I sensed no digital noise reduction, and the movie came free from print flaws. From start to finish, this remained a clean presentation.

Unmarried featured a fairly subdued palette, and the tones came across as appropriately rendered. While I couldn’t say the hues impressed, the colors seemed solid for what they intended.

Black levels were deep and dark, and low-light sequences followed along the same lines. Shadow detail seemed smooth and demonstrated good clarity within the restrictions of the source photography. Overall, the image came across well.

As for the movie’s PCM monaural soundtrack, it worked fine given its age and goals. Given the film’s character emphasis, speech became an important factor. Dialogue felt natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.

Effects played a small role, but they seemed fairly accurate, and they lacked distortion or harshness. Music also came across reasonably lush and full. Given the limitations of a 42-year-old mono mix, the audio seemed more than acceptable.

The disc comes with a mix of extras, and we begin with an audio commentary from writer/director Paul Mazursky and actor Jill Clayburgh. Recorded in 2005, both sit separately for this look at story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, social areas, music, and related topics.

For the most part, this becomes an informative piece. Mazursky dominates, and he offers a largely good look at his film, though I think he goes into “Old Man Yells At Cloud” mode too much, as he occasionally whines about the circa 2005 status of cinema.

Clayburgh offers good insights from her perspective, and while she shows up less often than Mazursky, she chimes in more than enough to add to the track. Even with some shortcomings, this ends up as a pretty useful discussion.

Another audio piece, Paul Mazursky at the AFI comes from June 1980 and presents a one-hour, 44-minute, 55-second program. Here he addresses/chats with an audience about his career and movies in general, with some emphasis on Unmarried Woman.

Mazursky seems engaged during the program, and he gets into films in a positive manner. He demonstrates an interesting POV, especially since he lacks the Grumpy Old Man vibe off the commentary. This becomes a fine addition to the set.

A new piece, we get an Interview with Actor Michael Murphy. Shot in 2020, this offers an eight-minute, 51-second chat in which Murphy goes over the era in filmmaking, his character and performance, and other aspects of the production. Murphy provides some useful insights.

In the same vein, we find a 2020 Interview with Actor Lisa Lucas. During the 11-minute, six-second piece, Lucas discusses how she got the part in Unmarried and aspects of her experiences on the shoot. Lucas brings a nice view of her perspective.

Another circa 2020 chat, we move to an Interview with Author Sam Wasson. In this 15-minute, 39-second program, Wasson offers an appreciation of Woman. While I don’t agree with all his opinions, Wasson gives us a good argument in the film’s favor.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the set concludes with a booklet. It mixes credits, art and an essay from critic Angelica Jade Bastien. While not a great booklet, it brings some value to the package.

42 years after its release, An Unmarried Woman really shows its age. A serious product of its era, the movie feels more like a cinematic self-help tome than an actual character journey. The Blu-ray comes with pretty good picture and audio as well as a nice collection of supplements. While the film broke ground in its day, it doesn’t hold up as a quality drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main