Still from 1986's "The Morning After."

actress — one we’re supposed to believe was probably pretty terrific back when she was young and bright-eyed — but is nearing the end of her career. Now that she's approaching her 50th birthday, offers have all but dried up. And any offer she does get is reliably derailed by her dependence on the bottle to get through the day.

 

She’d be engaging if she were heading a character study not unlike the ones perfected by Charles Bukowski in his heyday. Or if the movie lived up to its potential as a pulse-pounding, and eventually sexy, whodunit. But in The Morning After, Fonda is the heroine of a psychological thriller more Lifetime than pre-Showgirls (1995) Joe Eszterhas.

 

The storyline is one we’re certain Bette Davis might have vitalized had the height of her career not coincided with the enforcement of the Hays Code. In the first few moments of The Morning After, Fonda’s Alex is waking up in the apartment of the man she has presumably slept with. Her bleach blonde hair’s astray, her mascara raccooned. She doesn’t remember a thing. She’s the sort to black out when she gets drunk enough, and we suspect this same thing has happened before, given her appearing relatively unfazed.

 

But this morning is different. Alex tries to nudge her one-night lay awake and finds that he doesn’t move. And that his skin’s cold. Then she looks down and notices some red goop on her hands and her clothes. She gets out of bed, lifts the blanket, and rolls the man over. A knife is in his back. 

 

First Alex screams, then she contemplates. She wanders around the apartment doing what she’d normally do after a disastrous night — have drop of vodka, hover over the toilet and overthink retching — and then she calls her husband (Raúl Juliá), from whom she’s comfortably separated, and reveals everything.

 

She determines that she’s simply going to leave the body where it is and scrub any evidence of her being in the apartment. But then she’s interrupted by Turner (Jeff Bridges), an ex-cop and former alcoholic who meets her at precisely the wrong moment but decides that he likes her — and, when Alex eventually rehashes the situation to him, that he believes she’s being set up.

 

But The Morning After doesn’t convince. Though the opening is exciting and a testament to Fonda’s always-entrancing intensity as an actress, from there does it disintegrate into a vat of both forced romantic interludes and thriller tropes that don’t fly this time around.

 

Once the romance between Alex and Turner starts to develop, too, the more the movie announces its ineffectiveness (Alex acts so erratically it’s a miracle Turner feels the need to stick around), and that’s worsened further when the identity of the killer — and the machinations behind the murder conspiracy — come out of the woodwork and all we can do is roll our eyes and think about how much more we liked Klute, the 1971 murder melodrama that won Fonda an Academy Award. C-

DIRECTED BY

Sidney Lumet

 

STARRING

Jane Fonda

Jeff Bridges

Raúl Juliá

Diane Salinger

Bruce Vilanch

Geoffrey Scott

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

1986

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 43 Mins.

The Morning After        

ane Fonda plays a great drunk in The Morning After (1986), the film that earned her her final Oscar nomination. In the movie, she isn’t just on the wagon — she’s strapped to it, too tired to think about an escape.

 

The woman she’s playing, Alex, believes she has a good reason to drown her every sorrow in an open-mouthed swig of liquor every couple minutes. She’s an 

J

August 29, 2017