A TIME TO LIVE (1985) Somewhere in the mid-80s Liza Minnelli tries to raise her son Corey Haim, who has Muscular Dystrophy.

A Time To LiveTheme Song:

This song appears as Liza Minnelli’s character tries to appease her terminally-ill son with drum lessons. It’s a weird song, and there’s no credit given in the film.

A “music by” credit is given to Georges Delerue, but I think that’s in reference to the outpouring of sappy violins, which appear throughout the movie.

Interesting Dated References: Those fluffy, oversized sweaters women used to wear in the 80s; Corey Haim being considered a viable actor.

Best Line: Said by a teenage son to his mother — “Dad’s in the shower; guess I’ll join him.”

Social Context: A Time To Live is a dramatization based on the book Intensive Care by Mary-Lou Weisman. The film and book tell the true story of the struggle to raise her son Peter, who had Muscular Dystrophy.

Weisman went on to write less dramatic, more humorous books, including a book about MAD illustrator Al Jaffee.

Summary: So Liza Minnelli stars as Mary-Lou Weisman. This was Liza Minnelli’s first TV appearance and she won a Golden Globe for her performance. She’s does a great job, but she may be too much of a personality for a quiet made-for-television movie about terminal illness.

A Time To Live

It’s mildly distracting, but certainly not as distracting as:

A Time To Live

Corey Haim, who plays the terminally-ill Peter Weisman. Haim does a good job of physically portraying the disease, but is a little too slack-jawed when trying to convey illness and depression. Even more distracting:

A Time To Live

Scott Schwartz, former child actor and former adult film actor, as his older brother Adam Weisman. You may remember Scott from such 80s fare as The Toy, Kidco, and A Christmas Story, or from the pornos Scotty’s X-Rated Adventure and The Wrong Snatch. Remember when you rented Scotty’s X-Rated Adventure on VHS? Remember when you could still rent pornos? Remember how the terrible video store that would rent you and your drunk friends disgusting pornos was also trying to be a kid-oriented “fun zone,” complete with arcade games and toys?

A Time To Live

So Liza beats herself up and feels like she’s responsible for her son’s illness, and as a result she coddles the shit out of him and prevents anyone else from getting close to him. This results in marital strife with her husband Larry, and conflict with the other sibling, Adam. Eventually things reach a head and Larry agrees to try to be a more involved parent, which leads to the family heading to Paris to see a faith healer.

That goes nowhere, much like the husband’s promise to help, and so the movie moves forward two years.

A Time To Live

Now Peter is a bit older. Because of the Muscular Dystrophy, he has to learn to use a motorized wheelchair and is almost fully reliant on his family for help. The Weisman’s struggle through several more conflict, which include the following: Dad using bowel movements combined with crossword puzzles to avoid caring for Peter; jocks at school having full knowledge about the inner-workings of Peter’s wheelchair and applying the dual-levered brake; Dad earning Peter’s love by insisting he sit in his wheelchair in the aisle while enjoying the opera; Peter going away to camp, followed by Dad telling Liza how much he’s going to make love to her while Peter’s gone; and finally, Peter breaking his hip at camp.

A Time To Live

This leads to a montage spanning three months as Peter recovers from his hip-breaking. Part of this recovery includes Adam letting Peter hang out while he and his friends drink beer and look at pornographic magazines. Then Peter comes down with a bad case of pneumonia (unrelated to the beer and porno).

A Time To Live

Eventually he recovers from the pneumonia and is weaned off a respirator. Doctors warn the Weisman family that if he gets pneumonia again and has to go on the respirator, he’ll never be able to get off it, which leads to more discussion among the parents about quality of life and knowing when to let go.

A Time To Live

Peter begins to embrace his mortality and offers sage wisdom to the various adults in his life … and then falls ill with pneumonia again. At the hospital he insists he not have the breathing mask and slowly gets closer to death. He tells everyone he loves them, and wants to face death head on. He dies surrounded by family. Then Corey Haim died of pneumonia 25 years later.

A Time To Live

A Time To Live is well paced and effectively written, directed, and acted, as all made-for-television movies should be. There’s a good supporting cast, as well: Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead) as husband Larry Weisman, Swoosie Kurtz (Sisters, Mike & Molly) as Patricia, a family friend who cares for Peter, and in a very small role, Henry G. Sanders (Killer of Sheep) as the friendly bus driver.

Poster and Box Art: A Time To Live was not released in theaters, so it does not have a theatrical poster. All we get is this weird home video clamshell with a picture of Liza Minnelli.

Availability: You can watch A Time To Live on Youtube in three parts. If you must have a physical copy, you can find one used on eBay.

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