Down From the Shelf ~ Falling In Love

The Facts:

Synopsis: Commuting to Manhattan on the same train, two married strangers meet by accident and have an affair.

Stars: Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, Dianne Wiest, Jane Kaczmarek

Director: Ulu Grosbard

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 106 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  In 1984 Streep and DeNiro were already on their way into the history books of movie performances.  She had already won two Oscars and was coming off the success of Silkwood.  He was riding the great reviews of The King of Comedy and Once Upon a Time in America.  So it’s odd then, that these two actors took a chance on this slightly slight romantic drama which ended up not really going anywhere.

Both play married people that meet by chance on a commuter train into Manhattan.  There is your typical “meet cute” that turns into an infatuation and then more.  What Streep and DeNiro do with these roles is to give them real weight and pathos.  You see decisions on their faces and consequences cross their minds in a way that lesser actors wouldn’t bother going displaying.  They really do make the movie work better than it probably should and it makes this an interesting entry on their resumes.

It’s not that the movie is without value.  Even though it’s classified overall as a drama, there is a certain breeziness to the proceedings that make it quite watchable.  Maybe it’s the jazzy score by Dave Grusin or the unobtrusive direction by Grosbard.  Michael Cristofer’s script has some zip to it and both our leads deliver it well.  It has a few unexpected moments as well – such as DeNiro’s response to Streep asking him “Is there anything you want to know about me?”  What he asks isn’t quite polite but it’s a breath of fresh air.

Supporting performances by Keitel and Weist give this a very When Harry Met Sally… feeling and I wonder if Falling in Love didn’t inspire some of that later film.  Fans of Streep and DeNiro would probably enjoy this, as well as anyone looking for a romantic drama with some unexpected pedigree to it.

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