Nora (Marsha Mason) is a high school teacher and single mother who lives with her son Michael (Mathew Broderick). Their modest life is turned upside down when Nora’s estranged father Max Dugan (Jason Robards) shows up in the middle of the night offering a briefcase of money in exchange for a dying wish: time to get to know his grandson. Further complicated by the fact that Nora is dating a policeman (played by Donald Sutherland) who can’t help get the feeling that the new houseguest isn’t who he claims to be. Soon Nora and Max are concocting bigger and crazier stories to cover what is really going on.
Marsha Mason and Jason Robards are brilliantly funny together exchanging loving father-daughter quips. A young Mathew Broderick holds his own (showing many of his classic mannerisms) as Nora’s son caught in the middle of it all.
Of special note: the film has a terrific opening title sequence by legendary title designer Wayne Fitzgerald – who did titles for Bonnie and Clyde, The Dead Zone, The Breakfast Club, The Godfather II and III to name but a few. The sequence is a unique approach that gives the viewer back story of the title character so when he hits the screen a half hour in, the story can just play out without too much exposition. This beautiful animation was done by Bob Kurtz which is in a style similar to Bill Plympton.
Also of note, look for a young Kiefer Sutherland in his first Big Screen role. Real life son of Donald Sutherland he has a small part playing his son on screen.
Recommended to all who want a warm-hearted laugh from a unique family story. There’s some great performances and a unique story by legendary Neil Simon.