Jane Fonda in The Morning After (1986)


Jane Fonda received her seventh Oscar nomination for playing Alex Sternbergen in The Morning After (1986). I really wonder how Fonda managed to secure this nomination as she was not nominated for anything before this, and the movie is a big pile of crap. I guess it is is cool that the Academy likes to throw in surprise nods like this anyway.

I came into The Morning After after reading several reviews, so I was actually quite prepared for how bad it is. Let’s just say Sidney Lumet had fallen since his glory days of Dog Day Afternoon and Network. The whole murder mystery is so illogical, and fyi, it is only addressed in the beginning and end of the film, which is hilarious. For the most part , the story focuses on its two leads and their relationship, with some weird soundtrack playing at the back. Sighs, disappointing.

I usually try not to write negative reviews (I think I have nothing but praise for all the performances I’ve written so far, even the unpopular ones) but I just felt like I needed to get this out of my system. First of all, let me qualify myself by saying that I think Jane Fonda is a terrific actress, and I am one of those people who has no issues with her two Oscar wins (Yes, even the second one although I still think Bergman should have won). Technically, I don’t think she is the best but I have always found her a very soulful actress who can communicate the character’s inner life and emotions through her eyes.

In The Morning After, Jane Fonda is stuck with a weirdly written character, and unfortunately, I really couldn’t get anything out of it. I know some people see it as a “mysterious” as her intentions and background are never clear, but to me, it is just a sign of sloppy characterization. I hate to use this term, but I feel like Fonda is merely “going through the motions” here. She has a few breakdowns, a few sarcastic one-liners, and a couple of drunk scenes, but all these just don’t seem to gel together for me. I found it hard to care about Alex because the character’s intentions are just so weak and under-developed, and I find it hard to buy her actions. Unfortunately, I don’t exactly buy that it is because she is confused and unsure either. Throughout the entire film, I just felt that Fonda was playing the scenes as written. Sure, there are the few huge emotional moments scattered here and there but they cannot rise above the awful direction and screenplay. I mean, one moment she and Jeff Bridges are passionately making love, and the next morning they are screaming at each other and smashing bottles? What is this?

I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at how I reacted towards this performance, maybe because of the raving reviews I’ve heard about her work here. While I don’t think she is outright terrible per se, the whole thing to me is also just okay at best. I hate to assign a rating to her, but it would at best be a 3/5.


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