Moment By Moment (1978)


Moment By Moment is an abominable May-December romance starring Lily Tomlin and John Travolta.  It is such a colossal piece of shit that it was never officially released on home video after it’s brief run at the box office.  Rumor has it Tomlin herself squelched it’s distribution because she was so utterly humiliated by it, which is totally understandable after having seen the film.  Moment By Moment is the kind of movie that makes me glad I gave up on becoming a professional actor.  I don’t care how much money Tomlin and Travolta have made during the course of their careers, it isn’t worth the shame of starring in this movie.

Travolta is Strip (that’s right, “Strip,” as in, take your clothes off), a young runaway pill-pusher with a chip on his shoulder because his parents forgot his birthday when he was 14.  He finds rich, 40-something-year-old Trisha (Tomlin) in a Beverly Hills Pharmacy, hassling the pharmacist because she’s getting a divorce and her sleeping pill prescription has run out.  It’s a match made in heaven, obviously, but Trisha, perhaps grumpy from her lack of sleep, doesn’t realize it yet and treats Strip like yesterday’s pickle.  Undeterred, Strip doesn’t stop pestering her and follows her all over town (to the point where you have to wonder why she hasn’t called the cops) and when he shows up at her beach-front property with a sack of drugs she finally caves and lets him in.  The sparks don’t fly so much as they just sort of convulse lightly.

Strip and Trisha spend the next 45 unbearable minutes of the film bonding over Salad Nicoise, ratty stray dogs and Strip’s contrived back story.  It’s just the worst.  “Sometimes When We Touch” plays softly as the inappropriately aged lovers enjoy cold chicken on the beach.  Later on they’ll share a frothy hot tub.  Puke, vomit.  Gah.  Barf.  The level of discomfort I felt while watching this movie was staggering; like having a pap smear and a root canal at the same time.  I felt truly damaged when it was over.


If it can be considered ambitious to glamorize  a “cougar” romance before “cougar” romances were hip, then this movie still wouldn’t score very high because it didn’t glamorize anything, especially not cougar romances.  If anything, it made cougar romances seem even wronger.


Food options, little else.  Unless you hate your friends, I really don’t recommend springing this one on anybody.  They will never forgive you*.


The hot tub scene will make you feel physically ill.  It is burned into my memory forever.  I never needed to see so much hairy Travolta.  And that wasn’t even the sex scene!

To their credit, the film makers never actually show Tomlin’s impossibly strong hands grasping Travolta’s sad uncomfortable semi in the film’s one true sex scene.  However, what is shown is enough to make your imagination take you places you NEVER WANTED TO GO (see previous sentence).  It’s like when you’re told not to think of an elephant, and the first thing that comes to mind is an elephant.  Believe me, the harder you try NOT to think about what you can’t see happening, the worse it will be.


Points go to both Travolta and Tomlin for having the nads to go through with this momentous piece of crap.  The acting itself was sub-par, though, even for Travolta, and something about his performance in particular made me feel really uncomfortable.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until I found a photo of Travolta’s sister.

Ellen Travolta and Lily Tomlin

It turns out Ellen Travolta bares a striking resemblance to Lily Tomlin.  I can understand better why John’s performance was so off when I think about how awkward and icky it would feel to cuddle naked in a hot tub with someone who looks just like my sister.  I had a hard time not vomiting during that scene even before I found Ellen Travolta’s picture, so imagine how sick John must have felt.  There are many reasons for Moment By Moment’s monumental failure as a movie, but this is really among the biggest.  If the two stars of your romantic film have the sexual chemistry of siblings, it’s time to seriously reconsider things.


Travolta is super young, and Tomlin is only sort of old, and at this point in history that does date the movie.  It’ll probably be different 50 years from now when neither of their careers will have meant a fart in the wind.  By then they’ll have re-made it in 3D just like everything else and no one will remember John Travolta.  Or we’ll all be dead.  Whatever.


Calling Travolta’s character Strip was only the first o f many, many poor writing choices.

I can’t help but feel like there was an entire layer of plot missing from this film, as if something really important and vital to the story was forgotten.  Maybe some coked-up editor  accidentally cut the scene that really tied it all together and made it interesting.  There could have been something Oedipal going on, Strip’s lifelong repression of the sexual feelings he has for his mother causes him to seek out older sexual partners.  That could have helped some.  Not much, but some.

The ‘best’ quote of the movie came from naked, hot-tubbin’ Tomlin, who delivers the line in her best gushing, sexed-up older woman’s voice: “Let’s smoke some pot!”  If it will help me forget this move then indeed, let’s.


Aside from the garbled anti-drug message and some bullshit commentary on class division in modern society, the movie has some relevance because it stands as a testament to the fact that everyone makes bad choices sometimes.  Most professional actors have a Moment by Moment moment at some point in their careers, although it usually isn’t this bad. Tomlin and Travolta ate it pretty hard here.  It’s actually quite amazing and even admirable that they were both able to bounce back (eventually; Travolta did 16 more years of crap first).


The most original thing about this movie was the casting agent’s unfortunate Ellen Travolta/Lily Tomlin mistake.  It made for a uniquely uncomfortable experience.  Generally speaking, incest is a big point-earner on our scale, but it doesn’t do much for Moment by Moment considering the unintentional nature of those creepy incestuous undertones.


It’s difficult to tell if there was an effort made as far as creative cinematography since the film quality is so poor.  Every copy of Moment by Moment in existence today was apparently taped off the AMC channel 30 years ago, so any interesting camera work has been lost in a dark, boot-legged blur.  But, thanks to Lily Tomlin, it’s all we have (not that great cinematography could have saved this movie).


I might not have hated Moment by Moment as much had the soundtrack not been so nauseating.  Sometimes When We Touch has got to be the pukiest song ever written, and the background music was just as bad.  The incessant wailing of some far-off saxophone accompanied every scene.  It was as if they got a giant, retarded cricket to do the whole score.  It literally hurt my head to hear.

Every other aspect of the production design lacked enough impact to spawn any silly entomological metaphors.

TOTAL:  23 points

or the equivalent of enduring multiple enemas while your sister gives you a lap dance.

This Movie expressed as a Limmerick:

There once was a weiner called Strip
who gave older ladies his tip
His lip had a blister
That came from his sister
into whose pants he would dip

*To Pauline, Melissa and Calyn: I do sincerely apologize for the trauma of Moment by Moment.  Although I would totally do it again.  I love you guys!


~ by mgjk on September 1, 2010.

2 Responses to “Moment By Moment (1978)”

  1. Great review; I remember seeing this years ago on HBO. I had to comment on your line “The most original thing about this movie was the casting agent’s unfortunate Ellen Travolta/Lily Tomlin mistake” though, because it’s even WORSE than you thought: the script was actually written FOR Lily Tomlin by her longtime partner, Jane Wagner, which means…yep. She did it on PURPOSE! 🙂

    • Wow, that’s funny and a little disturbing! Maybe the whole movie was just some incredibly complicated practical joke she was playing on John Travolta for reasons we will never understand. Thanks for reading!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: