Twice in a Lifetime (1985) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A middle-aged steelworker is content with his job and his family, but feels that something is missing in his life. On his 50th birthday, he stops in at a local bar for a drink to celebrate. He finds himself attracted to the very sexy barmaid and, to his surprise, he finds that she is also very attracted to him.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Late summer of 1984 in Holden, Washington, a fictional suburb of Seattle. Army veteran and steelworker Harry McKenzie (Gene Hackman) is walking home after a laborious day at the steel mill. He lives in an older, established and very pleasant neighborhood (Seattle's Phinney Ridge) a fairly routine and secure lifestyle.

    Harry is celebrating his 50th birthday with his with his wife, children, and grandchildren during dinner time. As it appears, the marriage seems to be happy on all levels, except it's lacking in passion. Harry's wife is perfectly okay with him going down to the local tavern to hang out with his buddies while she stays home with the rest of the family watching TV.

    Harry goes down to the local Shamrock Tavern to celebrate his 50th birthday with many friends of his from work there to celebrate with him, including his longtime friend Nick (Brian Dennehy). There he meets a newly hired barmaid, Audrey Minelli (Ann-Margret), a lively, sensual 40-ish woman he chats and flirts with. Alternately, he's having a party at the bar while his wife, daughters, son in law, and grandchildren are watching All in the Family. Before the end of the party, Harry proposes a dance with Audrey, but she insists on a kiss, which he gives her.

    A short time later, a union steward at the steel factory Harry works at is giving out temporary work assignments for unemployed men except Harry's son in law Keith (Stephen Lang), who is even more frustrated for being unable to get work and having recently become unemployed with he and his family moving in with him. Harry comes home tired from work after a long night and goes to bed briefly with his wife, who is now about to get up and go to her job at a beauty salon.

    Harry is waiting for Audrey outside her place and she comes into the car to join him for a date. He's a little unsure of this, but goes ahead with it. The two of them have a date at a seafood restaurant on the coast. Audrey confesses to Harry she's rarely been with a man since her husbands death and Harry confesses to Audrey he's rarely had a day for a long time that he didn't know what was ahead for him.

    Some time goes by and alternately we are getting glimpses of Harry going on secret dates with Audrey around Seattle and the two of them in her cozy furnished apartment and the McKenzie family at home. One day, the boss of Harry's wife Kate passes him by on the road and sees him with Audrey kissing her. She tells Kate about it at work.

    Harry is asleep early in the evening about to get up for work and Kate asks him about Audrey. Harry is at Audrey's home that night confessing it's just a relationship separate from his wife, but Audrey confirms with him if they are going to stay where they're at, it must be just the two of them. Harry has become indecisive at this point.

    Kate and Harry's daughter Sunny (Amy Madigan) are grocery shopping and Sunny is infuriated at the thought of Harry being with another woman and even considering doing such a thing at his age. They both confront Harry at the Shamrock Tavern that he needs to stop what he's doing and Audrey feels bad having been caught and Sunny and Harry end up screaming at each other with Sunny confronting a silent and stunned Audrey. Audrey is now told by her boss she needs to find another job.

    Sunny and Harry's younger daughter Helen (Ally Sheedy) are at an outdoor tavern with Sunny upset her husband being unemployed and her father's infidelity adding to the problem. Helen tries to sympathize with her, but doesn't seem to understand Sunny's plight.

    Audrey meets Harry at the steel mill he works at while he's coming on shift and tells him how she feels horrible for all the trouble she's caused, but Harry reassures her he loves her and won't leave her and she doesn't need to worry about his family.

    Harry is at the tavern playing with a set of pool balls on a pool table with his son in law Keith confronting him. Keith is disappointed at Harry's infidelity and how it's affecting his marriage and unemployment status and that he wants to keep his wife and kids. Harry feels he's being berated, but the two of them brush it off and take off in a game of arm wrestling.

    Harry's oldest child Jerry (Darrell Larson) has arrived at the airport from San Diego with Sunny picking him up. Sunny is still frustrated at what her father is doing, but Jerry defends him knowing his parents marriage dissolved a long time ago and with the letters he receives from his mother, Harry is barely mentioned.

    Harry is in their bedroom and confesses to Kate they can't go on, but Kate tells him she still loves him, but Harry tells her he can't love her back anymore the way they used to and that their life has become too routine. Harry tells his entire family goodbye in the living room with Sunny refusing to talk to him. After exiting the house, he tells Jerry he didn't want to hurt anyone and Jerry understands him and wishes him good luck.

    Harry is walking home to his apartment in downtown Seattle with groceries. Audrey meets him at his apartment in the foyer and Harry shows her around to his furnished apartment, including introducing her to a man at another apartment outside his window sitting on the toilet.

    Some time later, Harry's wife Kate is out on the balcony of her home in a nightgown. Sunny and Helen are trying to cheer her up, but Kate is devastated how her husband left her and she feels undeserving of what's happened. But Sunny is optimistic that she'll be okay.

    Harry and Audrey attend a Seahawks game and soon afterwards, Sunny and Helen are outside the house playing with the family dog. Helen tells Sunny that she and her boyfriend Tim are getting married, but Sunny is outraged and tells Helen she should get an education first.

    Harry and Audrey are shopping through downtown Seattle on payday and Audrey wants to buy him a nice watch from a jewelry store, but after hearing about the price, takes him out and forgets about it. Alternately, Kate and Helen are doing shopping for Helen's wedding and Kate gets her ears pierced for the first time.

    Kate and Sunny are at a bingo game and Kate wins $100. The next day, she celebrates at her workplace with champagne and the workers want to give her a new hair job making her blonde.

    Harry calls up the McKenzie homestead and Tim (Chris Parker) answers the phone with Harry wanting to talk to Helen. She's not home, but Tim talks to Harry assuring him they will have a happy marriage, even though Harry is not too happy about the rushed marriage.

    Kate, Sunny, and Helen are at a male strip club having a great time, then Kate tells her coworkers about it the next day. A customer of Kate's feels she has an understanding husband, but Kate confesses they are separated and that their marriage died without her knowing it.

    Harry and Audrey are having breakfast with Harry upset and frustrated about his youngest daughter getting married, since they can't afford to live on their own.

    Kate, Sunny, and Helen are measuring the dimensions for Helen's wedding gown and Sunny going on how Helen and her new husband-to-be can't just live at the family home forever and believing her father returning will make Kate want him back, but she assures Sunny she's now not sure of it now herself and to not worry about it.

    Harry and Audrey are in a ferry boat with Audrey telling him how the past few months of her life have been the happiest and understands Harry's worries about his family and that he doesn't want him to leave her.

    Harry goes back to the family homestead the night before the wedding with the wedding reception being prepared by many men and women. Sunny answers the door and Harry asks for Helen to talk to her. Helen comes out and Harry addresses his concerns with her for marrying young like he and his wife did, but Helen assures him that she already knows Tim is right for her and that she won't make the same mistake he and his wife did over 30 years ago.

    Helen and Tim get married at a local church, with Harry in attendance. He tries to fit in, despite being separated from his wife and kids and refuses the invitation to go back to the homestead for the reception. By this time, Harry has accepted his ordeal that Audrey is his life and he needs to live with it. The family and guests have all left and he's alone and takes a bouquet of flowers from the wedding to give to Audrey and walks back to his apartment.

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