Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Jerry Belson & Diane Thomas
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Brad Johnson, Audrey Hepburn
When observing the filmography of the legendary director, Steven Spielberg, a divide between fantastical tales and sentimental dramas demonstrate the two sides of his sensibilities. His large adventurous escapades has allowed him to be the favorite of many but his dramas have earned him the respect of his peers. With a filmography of his size, there would certainly be films that are underseen and in the case of Always, that may be justified as one of his more underwhelming works.
Being the risky flyer he’s always been, Pete (Richard Dreyfuss) agrees for the sake of his girlfriend, Dorinda (Holly Hunter) that he will take it easy and be a pilot instructor instead in Colorado. Their plan feels like it may be complete until Pete goes on one last fly that ends up killing him. In the afterlife, Pete meets Hap (Audrey Hepburn) and learns that before he goes to heaven, he must help guide the folks of his life, including Dorinda.
The synopsis of the plot really sells this movie as quite the sentimental tale with a good message. It certainly accomplishes that but the rest of the film feels quite trite in its execution. It has a good cast with Dreyfuss and Hunter as the leads and then John Goodman and Audrey Hepburn there to support them. With such a good collection of actors, the real disappointment came from the lack of substance of the material and how lackluster the entire plot felt.
The character of Pete felt so contrived as the “hot shot” that needs to be calmed down by a woman and Dorinda never escaped that worried girlfriend mold that plagues many films. At every step, Always defied any chance to be anything but a basic story. It became such a disappointment for me because of the talent in front of the camera but also behind it. Spielberg always brings something special to his stories. Whether it be the whimsy and child-like affection of his other 80s films or the brisk coolness and efficiency of his 90s and 2010s films. Most of his films have a type of potency that makes them worth experiencing, but the same cannot be said for Always. It lacked the imprint he leaves with his other stories and at times while watching it, I forgot that he was directing it.
Its generic nature makes it impossible to fully enjoy for me, even with the sweet core it inhabits. By its conclusion, it delivers a good message about letting those left behind to continue on with life. Always fights against the selfish nature of humanity that wants us to take away someone’s happiness if we aren’t the ones causing it. Pete fights with the struggle of letting Dorinda move on and find love with another person even if she has a long life to live. Hap helps Pete with that transition and it becomes the last thing Pete has to do before admittance into heaven. By the end, the film feels like it has a heartfelt conclusion, but I just wish everything else leading up to it left any real resonance.
Always can provide the melodramatic feels if one may be seeking it, but under the guidance of Steven Spielberg, I expected much more from the story. When anyone speaks of the greatest films Speilberg has ever made, Always never gets brought up and with good reason.