Terms of Endearment ★★★★★

Strictly speaking this should probably be a 4.5. At times, you can feel Brooks's inexperience as a director showing. In particular, the rhythm between scenes can sometimes read a bit herky-jerk, with years passing in a single cut. However, the elements that have turned Brooks into such a distinct figure in American popular movies are already remarkably well-developed. The work within scenes-- from behavior and dialog to staging-- is immaculate and the flow effortless. Few outright comedies exhibit such clockwork precision allowing just the right space for laugh lines.

Of course, little of this matters when you're faced with that wallop of a third act. And nearly 40 years on, the movie still lands its punches. It's less that they don't make these kinds of movies these days and more that these kinds of movies are so rarely this good, work this well, find that balance. Neil Simon spent decades missing the mark. And that's the achievement of this movie and probably why it has stuck around. It's less a matter of craft than one of alchemy.

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