These are the classiest TV credits of the summer: Short stories by Ernest Hemingway, Mary McCarthy, and Dorothy Parker have been adapted by directors Tony Richardson, Frederic Raphael, and Ken Russell, respectively. The stars include James Woods, Melanie Griffith, Elizabeth McGovern, Beau Bridges, Molly Ringwald, and Peter Weller.
The results in Women & Men, however, are mediocre. McCarthy’s mordant ”The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt” has been turned into a tiresome bedroom farce — or, to be more accurate, a train-sleeping-car farce; the best thing about it is dolphin-cute Elizabeth McGovern’s skillfully funny drunk scene. Parker’s story ”Dusk Before Fireworks” was a mannered little trifle about a gigolo and a flapper, and the TV version, starring Weller and Ringwald, has been adapted all too faithfully.
The best is last: In Hemingway’s ”Hills Like White Elephants,” Woods and Griffith portray a couple waiting for a train in Spain, debating whether the woman, who has recently discovered she’s pregnant, should get an abortion.
The adaptation, by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, takes many liberties with Hemingway’s dialogue, all of them sensible ones that capture Hemingway’s spare prose style without falling into parody, no mean feat. Director Tony Richardson has shot this half-hour movie in a crisp, straightforward way that complements the dialogue.
Given the talent involved in Women & Men, one good film out of three is disappointing. Combined grade: C