Films

Hawkeye goes to Washington

THE SEDUCTION OF JOE TYNAN Directed by Jerry Schatzberg

Richard Corliss October 1 1979
Films

Hawkeye goes to Washington

THE SEDUCTION OF JOE TYNAN Directed by Jerry Schatzberg

Richard Corliss October 1 1979

Hawkeye goes to Washington

THE SEDUCTION OF JOE TYNAN Directed by Jerry Schatzberg

It has happened: all those post-war toddlers who made up the American baby boom have reached young middle age. The mood of the U.S.—and of U.S. movies—has subtly changed, calmed down, grown a little mellow and melancholy. A decade ago, when the baby boomers were making sonic waves on the campuses and in the streets, the

rallying cry was, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Now that just about everybody is over 30, you’re more likely to hear, “What’s on TV tonight, honey?”

What have been on TV in the ’70s are prestige dramas about the mid-life crisis. So it’s no coincidence that the mature (read: middle-aged) movies of the past few years—Julia, The Turning Point, An Unmarried Woman, Annie Hall and Manhattan, and now The Seduction of Joe Tynan—appeal to this liberal, humanist, upper-middle-class constituency. Joe Tynan, in fact, was originally called The Senator—until someone realized there had already been a Hal Holbrook TV series with the same title.

Joe (Alan Alda) is a liberal senator from New York who has managed to acquire political power without sacrificing either his principles or his happy home life (welcome to Fantasy Long Island). Soon enough, though, a chance for some real power—maybe even a spot on the national ticket—tests both his political scruples and his comfortable monogamy. Will Joe shaft his oldest friend in the Senate (Melvyn Douglas) in order to ride a hot issue to the White House? Will he be able to reconcile with his sweet, troubled wife (Barbara Harris) after a high-voltage dalliance with an attractive lobbyist (Meryl Streep)? Will Joe Tynan be able to reconcile its various tones of satire, soul-searching, romantic comedy and menopausal melodrama? Will the stay-at-homes

Richard Corliss

who would surely watch Joe Tynan if it were a TV movie pay $3.50 to see it in a theatre?

With Alda as both star and author of the original screenplay, you might expect a kind of Hawkeye Goes to Washington. And that’s pretty much what you get, with this engaging, intelligent actor playing it both ways—suitably cynical and sufferably noble—as he sprints down the corridors of power. And Barbara Harris does wonders with a role that suggests Homer’s Penelope scaled down to the dimensions of a soap-opera masochist. It’s a considerable feat of acting that Harris somehow looks 20 years older—really wrecked— because of all that her character has endured through the movie.

But the best reason for seeing Joe Tynan is Meryl Streep. A veteran of both Shakespeare and musical comedy on the New York stage, Streep has been cast mostly as the long-suffering girl in movies (The Deer Hunter) and on TV (The Holocaust). Here she gets a chance to be aristocratically sexy and to show off her light touch with a bawdy line. Streep deserves to be the Carole Lombard of the ’80s; Joe Tynan deserves a slot on the 1981 schedule of Tuesday Night at the Movies. Richard Corliss