Robert Cole, a Los Angeles film editor, breaks off with Mary Harvard, his girlfriend, in the opening scene of this movie. Believing that he can get along without her, he vows to start a new life. Cole pops down some vitamins, begins jogging, and even calls up a girl from his past. But it's all to no avail. He finds himself circling Mary's house in his car and calling the local band where she works. Eventually, Mary capitulates to his presents and persistence and agrees to see him again.
Albert Brooks (whose Real Life was a spoof on the media and American families) is a quirky and very self-possessed creative person who uses his films to probe subjects which interest him. The character he plays in this movie is a loser in love who is understandable but not likeable. Many of the things Cole says and does are humorous, but the fellow is a casualty when it comes to l'amour.
Kathryn Harrold is very good as Mary, a hard-working woman trying to cope with a possessive lover. Once Robert returns, all the old patterns reassert themselves he interferes with her job and snoops into her private life. Although she makes it quite clear how important her work is, he cannot see or accept the delicate balance between separateness and togetherness that enables adult lovers to be emotionally close and yet retain individuality.
There are many who still insist on defining love in quantitative terms how much does he or she love me. Possessive lovers, like Robert, are the most culpable in this regard. Modern Romance, by way of negatives, points out that love can and should be seen in qualitative terms, with the accent being on the ways one expresses love, respect, and loyalty. At the screening we attended, the audience clapped in response to the final captions revealing the predictable fate of Mary and Robert's relationship. It is a sad sign of the times when love seems to undo more people than it saves.