Does anyone remember the Sissy Spacek-Kevin Kline movie, “Violets are Blue”?
It was a 1984 flop — written by Naomi Foner (mom to Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal) and directed by Jack Fisk — that rarely turns up on TV these days and has never appeared on DVD, but is fondly recalled by at least one person who saw it.
The movie is about the lure of an old love that never lasted. The characters played by Kevin Kline and Sissy Spacek were crazy about each other in the late 1960s but went their separate ways — she became a photojournalist, he took over his dad’s beach resort newspaper.
15 years later, Kline is happily married to Bonnie Bedelia when Spacek returns home for a visit. She has never married — too busy with her career — and he starts to wonder if he settled down too quickly and might have a second chance with Spacek (and a much more exciting career as a journalist if he takes off with her).
I thought about the movie for the first time in decades when I watched a preview of a new made-for-Lifetime film debuting tonight at 9 p.m. — “Unanswered Prayers” — that is strikingly similar to “Violets are Blue.”
It’s another well-written and well-acted examination of people pushing 40 who wonder if they should have taken another road 20 years earlier. Like the golden oldie from 1984, the new film treats the dilemma intelligently and doesn’t harshly judge the adulterous impulses between old lovers who have long been separated.
Eric Close (above) stars as Ben Beck, Samantha Mathis (above, left) is his wife Lorrie, and Madchen Amick (top) is Ben’s high school girlfriend, Ava Andersson, who left the small Virginia town (and Ben) for greener urban pastures elsewhere.
Ava returns to town when her mother dies and she and Ben begin to wonder if they made the wrong choices.
It’s a potent, timeless theme, and Lifetime has done a good job of casting and producing a movie with a real sense of place (actual Virginia locations rather than a Canadian substitute). Ben and Ava don’t go as far as Sissy and Kevin did in “Violets are Blue” but their flirtation threatens Ben’s marriage.
The movie’s title is derived from a 1990 Garth Brooks hit — about a husband who is glad his prayers to get an old girl friend back went unanswered — and the singer served as executive producer.
“Unanswered Prayers” is another example of Lifetime pushing beyond its old label “television for women,” which often meant soapy movies in which men were guilty until proven innocent. All three of the troubled characters in tonight’s film are given a very fair treatment by director Steven Schacter and writers Deena Goldstone and Joyce Eliason.