Up Close & Personal is a 1996 American romantic drama film directed by Jon Avnet, and starring Robert Redford as a news director and Michelle Pfeiffer as his protegée, with Stockard Channing, Joe Mantegna, and Kate Nelligan in supporting roles.

The film began as an adaptation of Golden Girl: The Story of Jessica Savitch, a 1988 book by Alanna Nash that recounted the troubled life of American news anchor Jessica Savitch. The finished picture, however, was greatly altered by commercial decisions on the part of the producers, and bore little resemblance to Savitch's biography. Screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, having spent eight years working on the script with his wife, Joan Didion, later wrote a book describing his difficult experience, entitled Monster: Living Off the Big Screen.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Original Song ("Because You Loved Me"), written by Diane Warren and performed by Céline Dion.


Sally "Tally" Atwater (Michelle Pfeiffer) is an ambitious, aspiring news reporter, who is hired by Miami local news director Warren Justice (Robert Redford) when she sends in a homemade audition tape. He carefully guides her career to new heights, all the while becoming increasingly attracted to her. Tally soon rises through the ranks of network news to become successful, while Warren's once-stellar career sinks into mediocrity. Furthermore, Tally's ascension takes her away from Warren when she is forced to relocate to Philadelphia. Tally struggles at her new post, in no small part due to the hostility of veteran reporter Marcia McGrath (Stockard Channing), who jealously protects her position as the top reporter. Warren turns up to inspire Tally, and the two partners begin a new career together. However, on a routine assignment in a Philadelphia prison, Tally and her cameraman are taken hostage in a prison riot and forced to endure hours of intense violence. Tally covers the groundbreaking story from within the walls of the collapsing prison as Warren looks on from outside, guiding her through her first national broadcast. This incredible act of bravery leads to Tally's eagerly anticipated advancement to a national network newscaster position and the continuation of the dynamic duo's rise to fame - but shortly after, disaster strikes when Warren is killed during an assignment.


  • Robert Redford as Warren Justice
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Sally "Tally" Atwater
  • Stockard Channing as Marcia McGrath
  • Joe Mantegna as Bucky Terranova
  • Kate Nelligan as Joanna Kennelly
  • Glenn Plummer as Ned Jackson
  • James Rebhorn as John Merino
  • Scott Bryce as Rob Sullivan
  • Raymond Cruz as Fernando Buttanda
  • Dedee Pfeiffer as Luanne Atwater
  • Miguel Sandoval as Dan Duarte
  • Noble Willingham as Buford Sells
  • James Karen as Tom Orr
  • Brian Markinson as Vic Nash


In the spring of 1988, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion began writing the script for a film entitled Golden Girl, based on Alanna Nash's biography of Jessica Savitch. When the film was finally released in 1996, eight years later, it was known as Up Close & Personal and none of the more controversial details of Savitch's private life remained:[1]

  • Savitch's erratic behaviour was supposedly due to continued drug abuse, a theory seemingly confirmed by an incoherent news update in October 1983 that led to a national outcry.[2]
  • Savitch's second husband (who was homosexual) committed suicide less than a year after they married.[2]
  • Savitch underwent an abortion procedure, later claiming that she had suffered a miscarriage.[1]
  • Most notably, Savitch died at the age of 36 in a car accident, an event not depicted in the film.[1]

According to Dunne, who chronicled his experiences dealing with studio executives in his book Monster: Living Off the Big Screen, the majority of these changes were made in order to appeal to a broader mainstream market. Producer Scott Rudin was reported to have said, when asked by a weary Dunne what the film was supposed to be, "it's about two movie stars."[1]


The film currently holds a rating of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews, indicating a negative critical reception.[3]

Critics largely ridiculed the screenplay for bearing little resemblance to the biography of Jessica Savitch, which was supposed to have inspired it. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "Up Close and Personal is so different from the facts of Savitch's life that if Didion and Dunne still have their first draft, they probably could sell it as a completely different movie."[4] Anita Gates in the New York Times wrote that "it all ends up more A Star Is Born than Network."[5] Leonard Klady in Variety described it as "A Star Is Born meets The Way We Were, and while discerning audiences will turn their noses up, the hoi polloi are apt to embrace this unabashedly sentimental affair and send it soaring into the box office stratosphere."[6]

Desson Howe in the Washington Post was extremely negative about the film: "Up Close and Personal, which was "suggested" by the Jessica Savitch biography, Golden Girl: The Story of Jessica Savitch, starts out with relative promise... but then, the loooove comes through like a bad-news feed, and our marquee lovers undergo one of those unbearable montages. While an insipid, rock ballad covers the proceedings with auditory treacle, Cushion Lips (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Armchair Man (Robert Redford) walk together, laugh together, frolic in the waves with their clothes on - that sort of thing... In this movie, network executives - who depend entirely on focus groups, marketing and advertisers to inform their decisions - are painted as the moral bad guys, while Redford and the emerging Pfeiffer are the embodiment of integrity... And the fact that this is a Touchstone Pictures production - part of the marketing-obsessed, truth-sweetening Disney empire which just purchased ABC - is far too hilarious an irony to ignore."[7] Time Out called it a "soppy May–December romance masquerading as a deadly earnest issues movie... Blow-dried, bleached blonde-on-bland entertainment."[8]

However, certain critics argued that the film had its merits. Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Taken on its own terms, Up Close and Personal is a fine movie. Two star images meet and enhance each other. Redford, as usual, plays a rugged, outdoorsy, uncompromising man of unshakable integrity who just happens to be news director at a Miami station. Michelle Pfeiffer, as usual, is gorgeous, pretty, gawky and a lot tougher and smarter than she looks."[9] Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, arguing that the "temptations are great to mock the clichés and melodrama in Up Close and Personal, but the movie undeniably works as what it really is - a love story."[4] Variety praised the "chemistry" of Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford, and the "delicious and brief star turns" of Stockard Channing, Kate Nelligan and Noble Willingham, concluding that the film wasn't "as accomplished as its inspiration but, regrettably, it's the best Hollywood has to offer in the heartstring-pulling genre."[6]

Awards and nominations

The featured song, "Because You Loved Me", written by Diane Warren and performed by Céline Dion, won the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture or Television, and was nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.[10]

Stockard Channing won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actress - Romance.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gelbart, Larry (March 2, 1997). "A Beginning, a Muddle and an End".
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Jessica Savitch - Internet Accuracy Project".
  3. "Up Close and Personal Movie Reviews, Pictures".
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ebert, Roger (March 1, 1996). "Up Close And Personal :: :: Reviews".
  5. Gates, Anita (March 10, 1996). "Movie Review - Up Close & Personal - As Naval Engagements Go, Not a Classic".
  6. 6.0 6.1 Klady, Leonard (February 28, 1996). "Review, Up Close & Personal".
  7. Howe, Desson (March 1, 1996). "'Up Close & Personal'".
  8. "Review: Up Close & Personal - Film - Time Out London".
  9. LaSalle, Mick (September 13, 1996). "FILM REVIEW - TV News Made 'Personal' / Redford, Pfeiffer in a fine romance".
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Up Close & Personal (1996) - Awards".

External links

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