31 user 9 critic

Starting Over (1979)

A divorced man falls in love, but somehow he can't get over his ex-wife. This affects his love life in comic ways. Based on Dan Wakefield's novel.



(based on the novel by), (screenplay)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marva Potter
MacIntyre Dixon ...
Dan Ryan
Larry (as Jay Sanders)
Richard Whiting ...
Alfie Wise ...
Workshop Member
Workshop Member
Sturgis Warner ...
John Morganson
Mary Catherine Wright ...
Student 1 (as Mary C. Wright)


Burt Reynolds is an attractive middle-aged man who suffers a crisis of confidence when ditched by his ambitious singer wife (Candice Bergen), until he begins to forge a new new relationship with an equally insecure teacher (Jill Clayburgh). But when the wife attempts a reconciliation - seduction followed by a truly excruciating song she has composed for him - he realizes where his loyalty lies. Written by alfiehitchie

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Share with someone you love a warm and wonderful romantic comedy! See more »


Comedy | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

5 October 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Auf ein Neues  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office

Gross USA:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


In this movie Burt Reynolds does not sport his trademark mustache which was synonymous with him from the 1970s. See more »


Moving mic shadow is visible on wall in scene where Phil meets Marie's children. See more »


Phil Potter: If I don't touch you soon I'll go out of my mind.
See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: Barting Over (2003) See more »


Better Than Ever
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager
Sung by Candice Bergen
See more »

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User Reviews

Bright Comedy with Stellar Cast Shining in Sharp Pakula-Brooks Collaboration
8 February 2006 | by See all my reviews

Just coming off producing and writing the classic sitcoms, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Taxi", James L. Brooks wrote the screenplay, his first, for this 1979 divorce comedy. Even after all these years and finally out on DVD, it remains funny, perceptive and thoroughly engaging in a way that later crystallized into Brooks' film-making trademark in "Terms of Endearment" and "As Good As It Gets". Fortunately, the director is the accomplished Alan J. Pakula, who shows a flair for romantic comedy coaxing excellent performances from the three stars.

The plot centers on Phil Potter, a magazine writer-turned-writing teacher who has been informed by his beautiful but flaky wife Jessica that she wants a divorce. Without much recourse, he seeks solace from his bear-hugging psychiatrist brother Mickey and sister-in-law Marva, who eventually set him up on a blind date with Marilyn, a mild-mannered, rather dowdy nursery schoolteacher. The movie then becomes a clever seesaw of Phil vacillating between his wife and potential new love interest. What remains fresh about the movie is how Pakula and Brooks keep the focus on the flawed characters and less on the predictable clichés about the awkward consequences of divorce.

Even taking into account his comeback turn in Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 "Boogie Nights", I doubt if Burt Reynolds has given a more subtle, genuinely humane performance than he does here. Cast completely against type (he was in his Smokey/Hooper/Sharkey action phase at the time), he makes Phil's uncertainty feel real - even at the risk of losing audience sympathy in the way he treats Marilyn no matter how inadvertently. In the afterglow of her brilliant work in Paul Mazursky's "An Unmarried Woman", Jill Clayburgh again demonstrates the malleable quality and fierce intelligence to make her deglamorized Marilyn an attractive and credibly cautious woman. In a revelation before her long, successful run as "Murphy Brown", a deadpan Candice Bergen breaks free from her heretofore vacuously decorative roles and supplies the movie's biggest laughs as the narcissistic Jessica, especially when she sings with uproariously tone-deaf panache to seduce Phil in her hotel room.

There is also a terrific supporting cast - Charles Durning bringing out all the unctuous support that Mickey can muster; a scene-stealing Frances Sternhagen as Marva, more than anxious to provide Phil emotional support when he is down and out; Austin Pendleton as a needy member of Phil's divorced men's club, who keeps remarrying his ex-wife; and Mary Kay Place in a funny cameo as Phil's aggressive first post-marital date. Other than Marilyn's unflattering outfits (the orange down jacket is hideous), Marvin Hamlisch's seventies-lite pop music is really the only significant element that dates the movie severely. The divorced men's club meeting scenes are hilarious, and you can see Jay O. Sanders and Wallace Shawn as fellow members. Unlike other romantic comedies of the period full of I'm-OK-You're-OK pop psychology, this one is still well worth viewing.

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