ROLE: Reece McHenry
DIRECTOR: Peter Masterson
US PREMIERE: March 6, 1998
This film is a poignant, wistful
story of what happens when people form relationships
without commitment. Reese McHenry is the owner of
a clothing store who, in 1966, hires Carol Fitzsimmons
to work for him as a seamstress. Carol is a widow, and
Reese's wife is in a coma; both are lonely, and they
begin a habit of going to the movies every Wednesday
afternoon. Reese is unable to commit to anything before
a romantic relationship as long as his wife is alive,
despite his feelings for Carol, and their love remains
in a state of limbo for the next 30 years. Meanwhile,
Reese's son Tom and Carol's daughter Katherine
become romantically involved with no knowledge of their
parent's relationship, but Tom's unwillingness to commit
mirrors his father's own failings.
Robert PATRICK.......Tom Ryan McHenry
Diane LANE...........Katherine Fitzsimmons
Sharon LAWRENCE............Joleen Quillet
The original title was "Tennessee
Valley", but a film crew could not be found in the
desired area in Tennessee. Production was moved to
Austin, Texas, and the project was renamed. However, a European release
was called "Tennessee Valley".
In an interview director Peter
Masterson joked about the Pulitzer Prize-winning
playwright, whom he first directed in 1995 in "Lily
Dale", a Showtime movie of a Foote work of the same name
- "Sam is an enigma just like his writing."
Houston Chronicle article,
"This is a very romantic piece and kind of a sad
story, but there's a lot of humor in it, too," Masterson
said during a break in filming at a farmhouse that
depicts the home of Shepard's character. That came near
the end of the 25-day shoot - about half the time spent
on most movies. "The Only Thrill" is modestly budgeted,
despite its big-name cast.
Frequent shifts in locales added a burden, along with
the fact that the characters age 30 years. Shepard and
Keaton needed up to two hours for makeup.
Shepard almost feels like he's a Texan, too, having also
worked here in such films as "The Streets of Laredo",
"The Good Old Boys", "Raggedy Man" and "Resurrection."
He is certainly well-versed in Texas highways. Though he
once starred in "The Right Stuff" as test pilot Chuck
Yeager, Shepard refuses to fly. So he drives himself to
his film sites, which in this case meant a long trip
from rural Virginia.
""I love Austin," Shepard said,
chewing a sandwich as he looked toward the west.
""Houston? That's 156 miles," he said, nodding down the
road as if giving his home address. A director,
screenwriter and playwright, Shepard was drawn to this
project by the script of Larry Ketron, who adapted it
from his play "The Trading Post."
"I like the way the relationships are drawn - the
subtlety of it," Shepard said. "Genuine love stories
without sentimentality and gushing are difficult to
find." He said playing a character across 30 years "is
tough - a great challenge." But working with Keaton
again "is a dream."
Ketron's original title for "The Only
Thrill" was "Tennessee Valley", where the story took
place. But Masterson deemed that shooting there was
unfeasible. ""There are no film crews around there, and
we wanted to use local crews as much as possible to cut
down on costs," he said. ""So I suggested Austin, and we
found everything here." With its new title, the
tale is now set in Texas. Vintage black Texas license
plates are on the 1966 Cadillac convertible driven by
The locations included a ranch overlooking the
Pedernales River and a theater in Lockhart.
The leased farm home being used for this day's scenes
already had much of the furniture and style needed to
convey the '60s, without much dressing of the set. For
the scene, Shepard's character arrives to hear news
about Vietnam on the radio while his cook prepares
dinner. Shepard goes over the shot in exacting detail.
"Did they have twist-offs yet?" he
asks when handed a prop beer bottle. Then he suggests
ways to rework the scene.
Masterson expects a company such as
Miramax or Fine Line to pick up the film for
distribution, but hopes it won't be solely an "art
house" movie. ""I hope it'll cross over (to mainstream
theaters)," Masterson said. "It appeals to an
intelligent audience. But it's also a very romantic
piece, and Keaton and Sam are fantastic together. We're
excited about that."
"The script makes it easier," Shepard said. "The
predicaments are so clear that you don't have to pump
them up with a lot of artificial stuff. The situation
takes over. There's a truth in here, and that's what
it's all about."
Kevin Thomas, LA Times:
"The Only Thrill" proves to be a poignant, contemplative drama about lost
chances with luminous portrayals by a perfectly matched Diane Keaton and Sam
Shepard, who were first teamed in 1987's "Baby Boom"... The
chiseled, laconic Shepard is the actor of choice if you want reticence in
spades, but he goes beyond that to show us a man shriveling up before our eyes,
seeming to grow literally smaller... Frankly, it's hard to imagine the film
working without Shepard, who can suggest so much that's knotted up behind
a stoic facade. "The Only Thrill" offers him one of his most substantial screen
roles, right up there with Volker Schlondorff's neglected 1991 "Voyager."
This isnít the first time Diane Keaton as Carol and Sam Shepard as
Reece have worked together, and it shows. These veterans give radiant
performances as a couple of people who age right before our eyes. Their makeup
is wonderful, but their acting is superb... Whe the film jumps to 1990,
Shepard does a startling job revealing how our sins bind us over time. His
character has withdrawn from life almost entirely, his shop is a mess, and he
spends his time doing very little."
Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle:
Shepard and Keaton (who have appeared together before in "Baby Boom" and
"Crimes of the Heart") are pleasing and believable as the stunted lovers,
especially when enacting their early middle-aged bloom.
Glenn Whipp, Daily News:
It's a small, quiet movie with the kind of subject matter that will appeal to
fans of the Lifetime cable channel. That the movie rises above melodrama is in
large part due to its fine cast, which includes Shepard, Diane Keaton,
Robert Patrick and Diane Lane.
William Arnold, Seattle
Texas-born director Peter Masterson ("The Trip to Bountiful'') gets reasonably
solid performances from his cast and he's able to give many of his scenes just
the right directorial touch to make them come alive.
John Hartl, The Seattle Times:
While the treacly opening/closing song reminds us that "you don't save love for
a rainy day," Shepard does such a skillful job of portraying Reece's
gradual emotional deadening that the sentiment has some force.
Alison Macor, Austin American-Statesman:
An ensemble piece by definition, "The Only Thrill" benefits most from the
combined talents of Shepard and Keaton. Keaton's eccentric mannerisms are
toned down here and played against Shepard's quiet strength. The pairing
works well and creates believable romantic tension, which is particularly
effective in the film's last act.
Robert Philpot, Fort Worth Press-Telegram:
As soon as Keaton opens her mouth, you know that she's going to give the movie
most of its juice. She's as winsome as ever, but she tones down her flightiness
to fit Masterson's low-key directorial style. Carol is like Keaton's
down-to-earth wife/mother from the "Father of the Bride" movies, dropped into a
story where she's trying to make her man show emotion instead of trying to keep
him from flying apart. And if Keaton adapts to Masterson's domain, Shepard
makes it seem like his native habitat: Always a bit distant, he's so
clench-jawed here that he could engage Peter Fonda in a "Ulee's Gold"
strong-and-silent-type contest. He has worked with Masterson before, and his
performance is more a masterpiece of casting than of acting.