Flannel Pajamas

Opens at Uptown, Fri., Jan. 12. Not rated. 124 minutes.

Indie-film exec Jeff Lipsky's sophomore feature as writer-director (after Childhood's End) shares with his distribution work a desire to restore some of the untidier virtues of '70s American film. For one thing, that means the well-off thirtysomething couple in this epic study of a relationship's slow deterioration—from tentative flirtation to horniness, marriage, and consensual masturbation in place of sex—spends less time simply charming its bourgeois audience than making it squirm in unflattering recognition. Money, believably, drives a wedge between Broadway P.R. spinmaster Stuart (Justin Kirk) and the underachieving Nicole (Julianne Nicholson), yet Lipsky, to his credit, portrays everything in the relationship—family planning not least—as a kind of minutely calculated business transaction. (Peeing in the tub can be forgiven, but not debt.) Lipsky's talky movie is more compelling and authentic in its second half, when the spouses finally get around to being themselves. "You never used to talk to me like this when we were dating," says Nicole. "Were you just censoring yourself back then?" (Note: Lipsky will conduct Q&As following Friday and Saturday's evening shows.) ROB NELSON

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