"There's nothing worth the wear and tear of living but laughter and the love of friends."
            — Hilarie Belloc

Emerson once quipped, "The only way to have a friend is to be one." Poets, novelists, and philosophers talk about the joys and the costs of friendship. Singers have charted the ups and owns of such intimate relationships and yet, a definition of the subject seems to be as elusive as that of love.

As we become more alert to the changes resulting from living in a highly mobile society and as the institutions of family and marriage undergo transformations, people seem to evidence greater interest than ever in the nature and meaning of friendship (Midnight Cowboy, Scarecrow, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Inside Moves) and several superb movies about friendship between women (Julia, The Turning Point, One Sings — the Other Doesn't, Girlfriends, Le Voyage En Douce) but very few about couple-to-couple friendships.

Now Alan Alda, who explored the difficulty some men have balancing their work and family life in The Seduction of Joe Tynan, has turned his attention to the strain and responsibilities of friendships among married adults in The Four Seasons. The film's serious intent is conveyed through a comedy format. Alda's screenplay contains many witty one-liners and a bevy of slapstick situations. As the title suggests, the drama spans the seasons of the year; the spring in upstate New York, the summer in the Caribbean, the fall in Connecticut, and the winter in an Eastern ski area. Victor J. Kemper's cinematography captures the natural beauty of each setting, and the use of Antoino Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" is a masterful pacing stroke. Alda's direction makes the most of the movie's fluctuating rhythms and moods; he draws out fine performances from the entire cast.

Kate (Carol Burnett) and Jack (Alan Alda) Burroughs pick up their friends from various New York City locations. They are Anne (Sandy Dennis) and Nick (Len Cariou) Callan, and Claudia (Rita Moreno) and Danny (Jack Weston) Zeller. In a station wagon loaded with food, the three couples head off for a weekend in the country to celebrate the Callan's 20th wedding anniversary.

These upper-middle-class people have known each other for years but, now that their children are away at college, they have more time to spend with each other. Jack is a successful lawyer and a philosopher of sorts who has opinions about everything. Kate works at Fortune magazine; she is a highly efficient and very practical woman who plans the group's vacations. Nick is an estate planner with an avid interest in sports, and Anne is a photographer who for several years has been concentrating on vegetables. Danny is a dentist with a bagful of imagined physical ailments, and Claudia is an artist who is very outspoken about her feelings.