Affording each of its characters' point of view equal credence, the unsentimental Twice in a Lifetime is a surprisingly compelling family drama that exceeds the Hollywood standard. The perennially stellar Gene Hackman brings real complexity to his role of a father leaving his family for another woman; his blend of guilt and excitement is masterful. Nominated for an Academy Award for her turn as his daughter, Amy Madigan brings out the believable angst and bitterness inherent in her character's dilemma. The rest of the cast, most notably Ann-Margret, Ellen Burstyn, and Ally Sheedy, do a good job fleshing out their characters as well. Though the script takes a few missteps, director Bud Yorkin genuinely creates a bittersweet sense of starting anew, and the authentic Washington setting gives the picture an added dimension of urgency and desperation.