Let’s just say it’s a film of its time.
Making Love was made in the early ’80s — disco wasn’t completely dead yet, and the home video wars were still fought between VHS and Betamax.
So the swell of strings at the start of the film, and the "aw, shucks" dialogue during the exposition are par for the proverbial course.
Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson play Zack and Claire, a married couple with their careers on the rise. He’s a doctor, and she’s a TV executive. They have no children because they’re waiting to get established in their jobs.
Or so they tell themselves.
Zack, however, finds himself distracted by other men, and he meets a writer named Bart (Harry Hamlin) during a doctor’s visit. Zack recognizes Bart from the books he’s written.
The two men meet for dinner a few days later and proceed to get it on. The love scene between Zack and Bart may raise few eyebrows today, but at the time, it’s a pretty steamy scene.
It’s also been attributed as the cause for the movie’s failure. Mainstream audiences back then weren’t ready for that kind of physical intimacy between two men, and it’s been said people walked out of the theater at that point.
It’s not a surpise Making Love emerges on DVD after the success of Brokeback Mountain.
As Zack’s relationships with both of his partners start to dissolve, the movie takes an incredibly compassionate stance on the characters’ predicaments.
Bart, who stubbornly refuses to accept Zack’s overtures for a relationship, faces his own hard-earned perceptions about the single life. Claire contends with the perception of her own marriage, trying to sort out what was real and what wasn’t.
Some of the storytelling techniques of Making Love feel a bit precious. The voice-overs and straight-to-camera monologues spell out every little thing the characters are feeling. It’s not subtle, but on some level, it helps to explain the particular complexities of dealing with divided loyalites.
The dated technological references can produce some unwelcome snickers. Claire mentions a Betamax, and Bart predicts he’ll have an impressive tape collection in 10 years.
Making Love is steeped in melodrama, but it’s also a pretty daring movie. The physical intimacy between Zack and Bart is shown as true affection and not perversion, while some of Bart’s monologues ring true to anyone who’s been there.
It was a film of its time in look and feel, but in its treatment of same-sex love, it was incredibly forward-thinking.