Except for a few bright moments of good verbal comedy, That Old Feeling is embarrassing to sit through.
Bette Midler and Dennis Farina play Lilly and Dan, Actress and Author, once married, now violently divorced, and back together one last time for their daughter Molly’s (Paula Marshall) wedding. Lilly and Dan hate each other passionately — so passionately that they have sex at the wedding and fall in love again.
Each ditches his or her current spouse of 14 years and runs off with the other. Molly, married now only 24 hours, runs off in search of her irresponsible parents while her husband Keith (Jamie Denton) tries to console the abandoned spouses.
In Molly’s search for her parents, she somehow falls in love with Lilly’s paparazzo Joey (Danny Nucci). Meanwhile, the newlywed Keith ends up consoling Dan’s wife Rowena (Gail O’Grady) in bed.
The audience I saw this with apparently thought that all the adultery was hilarious. I’m no Dan Quayle, but I thought it was a bit creepy. The message seemed to be “ignore your responsibilities unrepentantly and have fun fucking who you wish.” “Family values” aside, there’s something cruel about all this.
Perhaps this movie would have played well as a black comedy, but the movie is a romantic comedy. We are supposed to be rooting for these creeps.
Reiner and screenwriter Leslie Dixon tried to make it easier on us by making the victims unlikeable. Lilly’s husband is a new-age flake who rambles about “emotional valet parking,” so we can write him off as irrelevant. Dan’s wife is vain, manipulative, and jealous so we can write her off as a bitch. Molly’s husband is a career-conscious, self-centered Republican politician who thinks she’s too fat (and just for good measure, he also fucked Dan’s wife), so we can write him off as a prick. Everyone else falls in love.
But still, that somehow doesn’t justify the actions of the movie’s main characters. “He’s a prick” or “she’s a bitch” is no defense.
The movie is somewhat redeemed by some funny dialog —often during heated arguments — and by above-average performances by Midler and Farina (breaking out of his character-actor mold).
Other than that, it’s a standard romantic comedy with a very substandard gimmick.