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Always (Widescreen Edition) (1989)

A movie directed by Steven Spielberg

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The master doesn't "Always" get it right.

  • Mar 30, 2001
I love Spielberg movies. He is a director in an echelon all by himself. Much of the negative criticism about his work is that his pictures are too happy: good wins over evil. That is the very reason Spielberg's films are so successful. The catharsis is always complete. However, even Speilberg can't save some films. Such is the case with ALWAYS.

The film stars three great actors (John Goodman, Richard Dreyfuss, and Holly Hunter), has some of the most beautiful natural scenery in any Speilberg film, and a special appearance by Audrey Hepburn. The movie has a great beginning. At first viewing I thought to myself, "This is going to be awesome, a movie about Forest Service pilots and Smoke Jumpers! No one has ever done anything like that before." The great humor during the first thirty minutes (subtly making fun, among other things, of movies and even Speilberg himself) further deluded me. Of course, I knew Richard Dreyfuss' character was going to die, but I thought the movie was then going to focus on how the people in his life coped after his death. I was partially right, but wasn't counting on him to continue starring in the movie as an "unseen" spirit. After his character's final moment alive on Earth, the movie went downhill like a plane on fire. It quickly left its humor and adventure, entering the territory of the non-believable, extremely sappy, romance. From then one out there is very little hope. There are a few memorable scenes: Holly Hunter "cooking" dinner, the dead bus driver who is revived, and the final shot of Richard Dreyfuss walking out of the film. However, these scenes don't feel right together. The feel like different pieces of a jigsaw puzzle glued together: they fit but don't really belong. Even the master can't ALWAYS save a film.

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About this movie


Considered by many to represent a low point in Steven Spielberg's career, 1990'sAlwaysdid suggest something of a temporary drift in the director's sensibility. A remake of the classic Spencer Tracy filmA Guy Named Joe,Alwaysstars Richard Dreyfuss as a Forest Service pilot who takes great risks with his own life to douse wildfires from a plane. After promising his frightened fiancée (Holly Hunter) to keep his feet on the ground and go into teaching, Dreyfuss's character is killed during one last flight. But his spirit wanders restlessly, hopelessly attached to and possessive of Hunter, who can't see or hear him. Then the real conflict begins: a trainee pilot (Brad Johnson), a likable doofus, begins wooing a not-unappreciative Hunter--and it becomes Dreyfuss's heavenly mandate to accept, and even assist in, their budding romance. The trouble with the film is a certain airlessness, a hyper-inventiveness in every scene and sequence that screams of Spielberg's self-education in Hollywood classicism. Unlike the masters he is constantly quoting and emulating inAlways, he forgets to back off and let the movie breathe on its own sometimes, which would better serve his clockwork orchestration of suspense and comedy elsewhere. Still, there are lovely passages in this film, such as the unforgettable look on Dreyfuss's face a half-second before fate claims him. John Goodman contributes good supporting work, and Audrey Hepburn makes her final screen ...
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