Joe Tynan is a liberal senator from New York who is considered by many to be a possible presidential candidate. His busy schedule keeps him in the public eye. At home in Westchester, Ellie, his wife for 19 years, and their two children, feel neglected. In Washington, Senator Birney, Joe's mentor, asks him not oppose his southern nominee for the Supreme Court. However, when Tynan receives evidence from Karen Traynor, a labor lawyer, which shows the judge is a racist, he decides to go back on his word to his old friend. While preparing for the hearing, Joe also begins an affair with Karen Traynor.

Alan Alda who superbly plays the lead in The Seduction of Joe Tynan also wrote the screenplay. It is richly nuanced in its character delineations. The movie boasts several excellent performances. Barbara Harris should be remembered at Academy Award time for her depiction of the valiant Ellie Tynan, a sexy and smart woman who is willing to fight hard to save her marriage. Meryl Streep's Karen Traynor is a classy woman who shows vulnerability, intelligence, and sensitivity. Blanche Baker's small part as Tynan's troubled teenage daughter rings true as does Melvyn Douglas's flinty enactment of Senator Birney's battle with senility. Jerry Schatzberg's proficient direction places the emphasis where it should be in a movie such as this — on dialogue and the intriguing language of body talk. The Seduction of Joe Tynan is a value-rich film which explores the career/marriage crisis in an honest and open-ended way.