David Basner (Tom Hanks) is a gung-ho Chicago ad executive whose clever repartee serves him well in the boardroom and in the bedroom. A true representative of the Baby Boom generation, he is consumed by a love of gamesmanship both at work and in his sexual relationships with women. When one of his overnight lovers asks: "Are you involved with anybody?" his response tells all: "Does self-involvement count?"
One of his biggest challenges is landing the Colonial Airlines account for his advertising agency. Trying to impress the imperious head of the airline, David must undergo tests on the golf course and in the wilds on a duck hunt. Of course, his affair with the boss's daughter (Sela Ward), who is media director for the airline, helps his cause. But she's no dummy, this aggressive and amoral MBA. At one point in their relationship, she says: "You see something in me you really like you see you."
Screenplay writers Rick Podell and Michael Preminger bring us a realistic and fascinating glimpse of David's world at the advertising agency. It's refreshing to see a story that sets its characters in a credible working situation. Equally endearing is the movie's handling of the dramatic shift that takes place in David's life.
David's mother, Lorraine (Eva Marie Saint), has walked out on his father, Max (Jackie Gleason), after 36 years of marriage. On top of losing his wife, Max then loses his job as a salesman of children's clothing. Both parents turn to David for support as they begin new lives on their own; he also becomes their confessor as they reveal the emotional and sexual emptiness of their marriage. The last thing in the world David expected was this role reversal.
In this follow-up to The Flamingo Kid, director Garry Marshall draws out exceptionally fine performances from a large and talented cast. Tom Hanks makes David Basner's growth into mature manhood a wonder to behold. Jackie Gleason is convincing as Max, a grumpy and self-centered man who doesn't know how to handle the collapse of his marriage and career. Eva Marie Saint conveys the neediness of David's mother with just the right tone. Sela Ward, as a mirror image of David, and Bess Armstrong, as his high school flame who still loves him, help the protagonist come to grips with the kind of person he can become. And Hector Elizondo puts in a top-drawer comic performance as David's boss a man ashamed of his balding head but aptly proud of his understanding nature.
Before his parents reach out to him, David is living for himself, by himself, and off himself. They provide his lifeline to a richer dimension of being. Max needs his son most when he enters the hospital for a serious operation. Forced to choose between being with his father or obeying an order by the head of Colonial Airlines to be in New York for a presentation of the new ad campaign, David chooses family over ambition. He is richly rewarded when his father says to him: "You're the last person I ever thought would come through for me." Nothing in Common was one of the best films of 1985 it delivers laughter and tears in equal measure.