Evan Oppenheimer’s The Magnificent Meyersons introduces viewers to an upper middle-class Jewish family in New York City struggling with practical and philosophical questions.
It unfolds during the course of a day, at the end of which an important figure from the past emerges, much to everyone’s surprise. The movie has no coherent plot, being composed of a series of casual conversational snippets strung together like beads on a necklace.
This modest and unprepossessing film opens in New York City on August 20 and in Los Angeles a week later.
The Meyersons, unlike the down-at-the-heels Midwestern family in Orson Welles’ 1942 movie The Magnificent Ambersons, are financially secure, though not necessarily content with their lives.
Daphne (Jackie Burns), the eldest daughter and a book editor, admits she has not read some of the classics of literature. She suspects that her husband, Alan (Greg Keller), has cheated on her. He stoutly denies the accusation. She doesn’t want a second child, but he does. She confesses she’s selfish and lazy.
Roland (Ian Kahn), the eldest son and a wealthy businessmen, claims the human race is over evolved and has no future. Despite his successful career, he thinks people are disappointed in him.
Roland’s younger brother, Daniel (Daniel Eric Gold), a rabbinical student, is known as the “rabbi.” An analytical type, he wonders whether God exists or whether he should be a rabbi. Roland seems to have little faith in Daniel, doubting whether he’ll ever graduate and become an ordained rabbi.
Susie (Shoshanah Stern), their youngest sister, is technically deaf, but is able to speak. A real estate agent, she offers prospective buyers a discount on her commission if they purchase a property now. In another scene, she converses in sign language with a lesbian friend.
Terri (Kate Mulgrew), their mother, is a medical doctor. Much to Terri’s shock and consternation, her ex-husband, Morty (Richard Kind), suddenly appears at a family gathering in a restaurant. He’s in poor health, having been felled by a stroke after being struck by lightning.
Apart from Morty’s unexpected appearance, nothing much of substance transpires in this picture. Strangely and inexplicably enough, though, Daphne makes an oblique reference to “aliens.”
The Magnificent Meyersons is definitely an underwhelming experience.