Too Far to Go
Televised as an NBC special in March, this adaptation of eight John Updike short stories on a suburban couple (“the Maples”) was easily the finest “made-for-television movie” of 1979, and ranks with Kramer vs. Kramer as one of the most subtly intelligent studies of adult domestic life in middle-class America ever filmed. The New York Times' perceptive TV critic John J. O'Connor hailed Too Far to Go with these observations: “Every once in a great while, the potential of both the made-for-television movie and television itself is realized with a sudden fullness that leaves the spectator blinking in astonishment.... In Too Far to Go, the combination of talents is little short of flawless. The film was directed by Fielder Cook, a distinguished veteran of the quality-television wars. The music, blessedly unobtrusive, was composed by Elizabeth Swados. And the key, thoroughly dominating roles of Richard and Joan Maple are played by Michael Moriarty and Blythe Danner.
“Mr. Updike began writing his stories about the Maples, about the disintegration of their marriage, in 1956. Most of the stories were published in The New Yorker magazine. They represent vintage Updike, dazzling pure and precise in language, economical, scathing, hilarious and touching in their portrait of a loving couple who can't resist being cruel to each other.
“In his adaptation, Mr. Hanley uses one story, ‘Separating,' as the foundation of his dramatic structure. The Maples, married for 20 years, are faced with the problem of having to tell their four children about their decision to part. Proceeding from that point to the divorce itself, the rest of the story is told in flashbacks....
“The Maples are surrounded with the trappings of upper-middle-class Americana. Beginning with Greenwich Village fireplaces, they end with shrubbery in suburbia. Martinis and needlepoint, yoga exercises and summer seaside homes are mixed judiciously with Steinberg posters and French movies on television and cognac.
“But even while he calls her sweetie and she dubs him darley, they are growing apart, skewering each other with petty but intense cruelties....
“...we are confronted with people who seem not to have been sprung whole from the maw of a giant research computer. The Maples are real, rooted in a world of complex textures.”
Directed by Fielder Cook. Produced by Robert Geller. Screenplay by William Hanley, based on eight stories by John Updike. Music by Elizabeth Swados. With Michael Moriarty, Blythe Danner. (1979, 110 mins, color, 35mm, Print from Sea-Cliff Productions)