Just Between Friends (1986)

Just Between Friends (1986)

Taglines: They loved. They laughed. They lied. All in the name of friendship.

Holly Davis is a wife and mother, happily married to Dr. Chip Davis, a seismologist. She isn’t aware that Chip is having an affair with Sandy Dunlap, a television news reporter who interviewed him after a quake.

Holly begins teaching aerobics part-time at the gym where she and Sandy meet. Sandy and Holly become fast friends and Holly’s children like Sandy as well. Sandy is a career-minded reporter, trying to become an anchorwoman at the station run by George Margolin. One day at work, a news bulletin reveals the death of Dr. Davis in a car crash.

Holly is devastated by the news and so is Sandy. Helga, the gym’s owner is ready to sell so Sandy and Holly invest together. Holly learns the truth while clearing out her husband’s office where she finds a photo of Sandy and her husband together, clearly indicating evidence of an affair. She angrily confronts Sandy who tells her that she was unaware that her new friend was the wife of the man she loved. Holly angrily ends their friendship.

Just Between Friends (1986)

Sandy begs for forgiveness but Holly is devastated, hurt and angry and refuses to forgive Sandy. Holly swears she will buy Sandy out of her share of the gym they bought as soon as she is able and refuses to resume the close friendship they once shared.

Sandy discovers that she is pregnant and she tells Holly who is horrified by the news. Over time, Holly realizes that Sandy’s child will also be her husband’s child so she decides that she should try to forgive Sandy so that she can be a part of the child’s life. Sandy rejects her at first but once the child is born, the film ends as they begin to repair their friendship.

Just Between Friends is a 1986 American drama film about two women whose friendship is tested by tragedy. The film was written, produced and directed by Allan Burns, and it stars Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Danson, and Christine Lahti.

Just Between Friends (1986) - Christine Lahti

Film Review for Just Between Friends

Holly (Mary Tyler Moore) is a homemaker who happily tends to the needs of her suburban house, her husband, Chip, and her two teen-age children, all of whom look so new and fresh and unused you might think that they’d only recently been ordered from a Neiman-Marcus catalog. Holly is the picture of contentment. Sandy (Christine Lahti) is ambitious, restless, incomplete. She’s a beautiful, successful, wisecracking television reporter who aspires to be an anchor. Her marriage having failed, she lives alone in rented squalor, eating junk food and smoking too much.

At the end of the day, Holly asks nothing more than to cook supper for the exhausted Chip, a seismologist whose work – this being Southern California – is never done. Sandy, who’s in love with a married man, comes home each evening to a telephone answering machine.

When, at the beginning of ”Just Between Friends,” Holly and Sandy meet at an exercise class at the World of Woman, they immediately take a liking to each other, possibly because they are so different. Holly admires Sandy’s independence. Sandy envies Holly’s stability. Little do they know that, in addition to aerobics, they have one other thing in common: Chip, who’s both Holly’s husband and Sandy’s lover.

”Just Between Friends” doesn’t stop there. It’s an entire season’s worth of sitcom episodes wrapped up in one joyless theatrical film. Among other things, spunky Mary Tyler Moore learns (1) the value of another woman’s friendship, (2) how to face life alone and (3) the satisfactions of having her independence and a career without losing the love of a good man. She’s one of those women who suffers a lot and gets it all.

”Just Between Friends,” which opens today at the Ziegfeld and other theaters, was written and directed by Allan Burns, who has an impressive track record as the ”co-creator” and co-producer of television’s ”Mary Tayler Moore Show” and its spin-offs, ”Rhoda” and ”Lou Grant.”

Here he’s a clumsy director of his own material that’s as heart-warming as an approaching headache. Characters are defined entirely by prefabricated crises, the effects of which are so predictable that one would have to fall asleep not to stay ahead of them. People talk a mixture of sincerely believed truisms, punctuated by the sarcasm that, in televisionland, passes for wit.

The world in which they live, laugh, love, work and play seems phony, even when it’s real. By having one of its major characters come out four-square on behalf of a nuclear freeze, ”Just Between Friends” apparently means to display liberal credentials, but because the film is so mini-minded, the endorsement looks like ridicule.

Though ”Just Between Friends” is a star vehicle, it does no service to its star. She’s been photographed and dressed in a way that makes her appear noticeably older than her screen husband (Ted Danson), which is not one of the non-problems the film tackles, and so painfully thin that her false eyelashes look heavy. In ”Ordinary People,” Miss Moore gave a beautifully controlled performance as a dry, bitter woman. It was new territory for her. Audiences responded to her responding to it. ”Just Between Friends” puts her back in the Mary Janes she wears on television, and they look silly.

Miss Lahti’s Sandy is a coarse variation on her performance in ”Swing Shift,” for which she received a well-deserved Oscar nomination. She’s the most interesting character in ”Just Between Friends,” not necessarily because the performance redeems the picture but because it’s almost like an on-set visit. It’s an opportunity to see an intelligent, thinking actress attempting to find the center of an elusive role.

Something of the same can be said of Sam Waterston, who plays Holly and Chip Davis’s bachelor friend. There’s a good deal of animation in the performance but no more substance than exists in the role as written.

Just Between Friends Movie Poster (1986)

Just Between Friends (1986)

Directed by: Allan Burns
Starring: Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Danson, Christine Lahti, Julie Payne, Beverly Sanders, Salome Jens, Susan Rinell, Sam Waterston
Screenplay by: Allan Burns
Production Design by: Sydney Z. Litwack
Cinematography by: Jordan Cronenweth
Film Editing by: Anne Goursaud
Costume Design by: Cynthia Bales
Set Decoration by: Chris Butler
Music by: Patrick Williams
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: March 21, 1986