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Film / Chilly Scenes of Winter

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Chilly Scenes of Winter (originally released as Head Over Heels) is a 1979 Romantic Comedy (re-released in 1982) written and directed by Joan Micklin Silver, based on the novel by Ann Beattie, starring John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt.

Charles (Heard) is a thirtysomething employee of the economic development office for the State of Utah. By chance he meets co-worker Laura (Hurt) and is smitten with her. She's married with a young daughter, but is currently separated from her husband. Charles falls deeply in love with Laura, who's both grateful for and a little confused about the attention he lavishes on her. But Charles has issues of his own with the other relationships in his life. His roommate Sam (Peter Riegert) is an unemployed womanizer, his mother Clara (Gloria Grahame) is mentally ill, suicidal, and spends an inordinate amount of time in the bathtub, and his naïve younger sister Susan (Tarah Nutter) is starting to drift away from him.

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The film starts In Medias Res a year after the main events of the story. Laura has left Charles and gone back to her oafish husband Ox (Mark Metcalf), but he's still obsessed with her. After learning that she finally left Ox for good, Charles thinks that fate will bring him and Laura back together. But is he being too optimistic?

As Head Over Heels, the film was released in 1979 to middling reviews and almost zero box office. After the filmmakers took it out on the film festival circuit, it attracted a cult following, which prompted United Artists to re-release it in 1982, under the title of the original novel, and with the ending changed. The reissue was a critical favorite and became a modest Sleeper Hit.

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"What do you have?" "I have Tropes.":

  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: Clara, who's in her 50s, generally wears sleeveless, backless dresses.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Besides his voiceover narration, Charles directly addresses the audience a couple times while he's on camera.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Ann Beattie, author of the novel, as a waitress.
    • Besides co-producing, Mark Metcalf (Ox) and Griffin Dunne (Sarah's boyfriend) also play onscreen roles.
  • Dramedy: Especially the 1982 version.
  • Dumb Muscle: Ox, who's a former football player and is still physically imposing, but is also incredibly dense.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Charles has cast Laura in this role in his own life, but she doesn't entirely play along.
  • Meet Cute: Charles meets Laura in the office when he's sent to talk to another employee.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Ox assumes Charles and Sam are a couple when they visit him.
  • Re-Cut: After the film gained a following, director Joan Micklin Silver convinced United Artists to release it again three years later, but on two conditions: they change the title back from Head Over Heels to Chilly Scenes of Winter, and they let he re-edit the ending. Head Over Heels ended with Laura returning to Charles and finally declaring her love for him, as seen here. Chilly Scenes of Winter ends a couple scenes earlier, with Charles realizing that Laura's out of his life now and it's time to move on. As it happened, the Head Over Heels ending is truer to the novel, but the new ending helped the film get more acclaim.
  • Running Gag: Charles buying a candy bar at the concession in the lobby of his office building, the blind clerk asking him what he has, and Charles replying with some comment about his life.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Charles, especially in the latter half of the film.
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