‘THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES’ – Avoid on Film & Stage

May 28, 2015

As an insomniac, I often retreat to late-night for, hopefully, a classic film. Thinking I had come upon one with a remembered play title, “The Subject Was Roses,” I eagerly began what turned out to be the most unredeemingly depressing production I ever saw. Afterward, I went to Google for reviews. Here is part of Charles Isherwood’s 1-13-06 review:

“The Subject Was Roses,” Frank D. Gilroy’s 1964 drama about a young World War II veteran who comes home to marinate in the stifling misery of his parents’ marriage for a few days, is nothing if not dreary, to put it simply. And yet, as the revival of the play at the Kennedy Center here unhappily illustrates, if it’s not dreary, it’s nothing.

Mr. Gilroy’s play won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award, but it seems a modest if respectable achievement today, a heartfelt, unsurprising dysfunctional-family drama with tinny echoes of Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill. Still, in its frank depiction of a man and woman adrift in middle age, consoling themselves for the disappointments of their lives by making life hell for each other, it is certainly capable of striking authentic notes of anger, frustration and despair.

The 1968 movie directed by Ulu Grosbard, who also staged the play on Broadway, is almost oppressive in its clammy atmosphere, but Jack Albertson, Patricia Neal and a glowing young Martin Sheen uncovered soulful depths in their characters’ petty squabbles.

This insomniac found Patricia Neal’s character so miserably lifeless and Jack Albertson’s such a cranky bastard that despite the absolute warmth and charm of Martin Sheen the production was too distasteful to record for my husband. PHOOEY & BEWARE!