Chilly Scenes of Winter
Chilly Scenes of Winter is a daring romantic dramedy with John Heard as a guy obsessed with a woman he met at his boring job. He dates her for a while, but her marriage, to a man who she settled for, becomes a problem. Eventually she dumps him, but he can’t get her out of his head, even having knowing imaginary conversations with her. Subplots about his desperate-for-attention suicidal mother (played by the late, great Gloria Grahame), unemployed manwhore best friend played by a Gilbert Gottfried coiffed Peter Riegert (who has another mini-standoff with his Animal House antagonist Marc McClure, playing the woman’s husband), and his lonely secretary are not distractions, but rather add up to a rather complex understanding of how loneliness manifests itself in different ways. Essentially, Heard’s character is a stalker, though at the time, he would have probably seen as just sad, desperate, and love struck. At least he’s knowingly delusional.
Mary Beth Hurt, who plays the woman, Beth, is never quite developed completely. She’s confused and afraid of being alone, to the point where her indecisiveness is her main weapon, and ends up making the decisions for her. But, since the story is from Heard’s perspective, this is not a flaw, but a choice. There are a few scenes that are familiar to anyone who has seen Punch Drunk Love, and I would bet Paul Thomas Anderson had seen it once or twice, especially the way we side with someone who is almost totally out of his mind. There are even some shots late in the film that have almost been completely replicated in Punch Drunk Love. Sadly, Chilly Scenes bombed when it first came out and was pulled by the producers, who changed the ending and the title (to Head over Heels). The version I saw in the theater at a revival house had a more realistic conclusion, which is apparently at odds with the one that was used in the book.
Chilly Scenes of Winter is a far darker and funnier movie than anything else director Joan Micklin Silver (Crossing Delancey) has had her hands on, since it doesn’t go soft, mushy and obvious, and has real insight into romantic obsession without copping out.