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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Gift of Love (review)

As excruciating as this film is, it’s almost a pleasure to be reminded that vapid pop stars who think they can act are not a particular failing of the MTV era. Why, a quarter of a century ago, Marie Osmond pouted and sulked her way through this 1978 TV movie as Beth Atherton, an orphan raised by wealthy New York relatives in the very early 1900s who doesn’t want to marry the boring stiff (James Woods) they’ve procured for her. Instead, she wants Rudi (Timothy Bottoms), a poor but noble Swiss immigrant with an awful pseudo-European accent. You’d hardly know it, but this saccharine romantic trinket is based upon O. Henry’s wonderful little story of sacrifice for love, “The Gift of the Magi.” Like many film adaptations of literary material, the story is embellished beyond all recognition, playing more like a parody of its source: “My hair — look what you’ve done to my hair!” cries Osmond’s spoiled brat at one point. But she does get to croon an anachronistic 70s love ballad in the front parlor. Thankfully, tinny sound and a fuzzy image save you from overly intimate exposure to the film.

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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