In this romantic comedy with
supernatural touches, Stevenson Lowe works for a large
publishing house, editing and acquiring new projects.
Lowe's new boss is after him to buy fewer books that are
good and more books that will sell, while his girlfriend
Julia is trying to convince him that marriage might not
be such a bad idea. But marriage is a tough sell for
Lowe; in the hopes that a new home might make him think
about settling down, Julia suggests that Lowe look at a
brownstone that's just gone on the market. Lowe likes
the place and buys it, without deciding if Julia should
join him. However, Lowe quickly discovers that he's not
actually alone in his new digs; the ghosts of Max Gale
and Lily Marlowe, an acting couple who were the toast of
the legitimate stage many years ago, are already in
residence. Max and Lily are soon offering Lowe all sorts
of unsolicited advice on winning the heart of his lady
love, though given how much they bicker, they may not be
the best people from whom to learn the art of romance.
Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide:
Fine cast in fluffy fantasy about marriage-phobic book publisher Spader, who
moves into a Manhattan brownstone that's haunted by the ghosts of a famous old
theatrical couple who teach him about love and commitment. Curious, slowly paced
blend of supernatural whimsy, romantic comedy and relationship drams never
really gels. Made for theaters, this debuted on cable. Valerie Perrine appears
A harmless piece of fluff made for the Showtime Movie channel, "Curtain
Call" is the sort of old-fashioned movie that cause people to say, "They don't
make them like that any more." I admit it up front, this is my sort of movie,
but it's not going to be to everybody's taste.
At no point does it strain the braincells to work out what's going to happen in
this film, but that is not to say that it offers no attractions. Michael Caine
and Maggie Smith are both impeccable as the warring thespians, stealing the film
blatantly from their younger co-stars, while James Spader shows that he has a
depth of charm and timing that lends itself well to romantic comedy. Polly
Walker, however, is not sympathetic enough as his romantic foil, but much of
this is because her role is so clearly underwritten. Shepard, meanwhile, who
features in a totally unnecessary subplot, must have been really hard up to take
on such a wafer-thin role and dials in his performance accordingly.
Not a film that stretches its cast or the viewer, but it's an enjoyable
confection without being too sickly, especially since director Peter Yates
emphasises the comedy over the romance. Cut the Sam Shepard subplot, tighten it
by about 10 minutes, and make the focus of the film Caine and Smith, rather than
Spader and Walker, and then you'd really have a movie.
Spader, a publisher with job trouble and a nervous love life, moves into an old
house, which, he soon discovers, he's sharing with a couple of bickering ghosts
(Caine and Smith). Not a lot happens. Plotting is unadventurous, the dialogue
contains about a million words, none of them amusing or clever, and the film
curls up and dies in the pauses for laughter which the actors have
optimistically allowed after each feeble rally. Spader, lacking the practised
insouciance of his co-stars, makes heavy weather of the hero.
Tom Keough, Tower.com:
James Spader looks like the hardest-working man in show business as the busy,
comic-romantic lead in this enjoyable "film blanc" (a tongue-in-cheek phrase
coined by film critic Andrew Sarris to describe that genre of movies featuring
ghosts in love). Spader plays Stevenson Lowe, heir to a highly respected
publishing firm that has recently been purchased by a giant media corporation.
Though Stevenson has deluded himself into believing the new owners will allow
him to maintain creative control over his family's book line, he soon discovers
the unpleasant truth. A ludicrous executive (funny work by Buck Henry) is
pushing no-brainer tomes about cats and the female fat cell into the spring
list, pushing poor Stevenson into the margins of his own company.
His helplessness has a way of resonating with other mushy areas of his life.
Having purchased an expensive townhouse for himself alone, Stevenson severely
disappoints his long-suffering girlfriend (Polly Walker in a rare comic outing),
who thought they were going to get married. The hero's dithering on this sore
subject gets more complicated when he discovers a pair of Jazz Age ghosts
(Michael Caine and Maggie Smith) occupying his new home and dispensing unwanted
advice about love. Directed by Peter Yates (Breaking Away), Curtain
Call has a low-key charm kept alive by the considerable skills of its
admirable cast (including Sam Shepard, Marcia Gay Harden, and Frank Whaley),
while a handful of memorable, screwball scenes deliver solid sight gags. Not a
masterpiece, but a real treat.