An Unmarried Woman

1978 Drama | Romance | Comedy

A New York wife learns about the satisfactions of single life in this landmark 1970s woman's film. Unlike her dysfunctional friends, vibrant Erica (Jill Clayburgh) seems to have it all: a nice Upper East Side home, a well-adjusted teenage daughter (Lisa Lucas), a job at a Soho art gallery, and a loving husband, Martin (Michael Murphy). Erica falls apart, however, when Martin leaves her for a younger woman. Finally, at her female therapist's urging, Erica ventures out into the world of singlehood, finding solace in female bonding and even casual sex. As she adjusts to her new life, Erica realizes that she likes her freedom and independence. But when she falls in love with sensitive bearded artist Saul (Alan Bates), Erica must decide whether to turn down a lucrative job to spend the summer with her man in Vermont or forge ahead with her new existence. One of a group of new women's pictures made in the wake of post-1960s feminism, including Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) and The Turning Point (1977), An Unmarried Woman updated the genre's concern with relationships and love by turning the heroine's unwedded status into a positive growth experience. The great female stars of the past like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis may be gone, as Erica and her friends mourn, but so is the all-consuming suffering of classical weepies, as writer/director Paul Mazursky ends the film on a note of reserved affirmation. While some critics (including feminists) complained that Saul was too much of a romantic fantasy, An Unmarried Woman was praised for Clayburgh's performance, and earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. A hit with 1978 audiences, An Unmarried Woman provoked viewer debate over Erica's final choice and its meaning for women. Either way, An Unmarried Woman astutely pointed to how far the new 1970s woman had come -- and how far she still needed to go.~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide