Best friends since sixth grade and now they’re hitting sixty, these two foxy Hollywood working girls. Their friendship is the heart of McMurtry’s larky latest, fizzy enough to keep the fans happy.
Sunday morning in Hollywood. Maggie Clary is alone in her bungalow, her lifelong home, when all three of her married daughters show up unannounced. They’re on a mission to ease Maggie’s “despair” following her hysterectomy. She still has her job as manager of a loop group, shepherding her volatile, druggy crew into the mix studios in the unglamorous world of post-production; and she still has a sex life, or did until she dumped the handsome young actor she caught going through her purse. Yet somehow the spark has gone. Might a trip with her old friend Connie revive it? This is an excellent setup, its tone raunchy in a cheerful, nonchalant way, as befits two sexual adventurers (not matrons, insists Connie) who’ve been “trolling for good-looking guys” since their early teens. And they don’t have to be young studs (Maggie realizes she may be falling in love with her ancient Sicilian shrink, despite his S&M games). Once the ladies are on the road, driving to the Texas panhandle to visit Maggie’s last living aunt, the writing goes thin. A white-bearded hitchhiker (a wrangler in Rita Hayworth’s last movie) and a diminutive Indian who murdered his wife are colorful, but in an ersatz way. Aunt Cooney turns out to be a ruthless old crone overseeing her agribusiness (two million hens), and Maggie and Connie beat a hasty retreat back to LA. A short final section feels overly rushed, making Maggie’s closing affirmation of her friendship with Connie less moving than it might have been.
The proportions may be wrong, but there’s something here for everyone: An affectionate peek at the workers clinging to Hollywood’s lowest rung; campy sex; drama on the highway; and canny insights into the dynamics of family and friendship.