An ophthalmologist's mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman.
[last lines] Professor Levy: [voiceover] We are all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions. Moral choices. Some are on a grand scale. Most of these choices are on lesser points. But! We define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are in fact the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to have been included, in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, and even to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.
Professor Levy: You will notice that what we are aiming at when we fall in love is a very strange paradox. The paradox consists of the fact that, when we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction: The attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.
Cliff Stern: Last time I was inside a woman was when I visited the Statue of Liberty.
Clifford Stern: Listen, I don't know from suicides. Y'know, where I grew up, in Brooklyn, nobody committed suicide. Y'know, everyone was too unhappy.
[On Lester] Halley Reed: He wants to produce something of mine. Clifford Stern: Yeah. Your first child.
Clifford Stern: Show business is, is dog-eat-dog. It's worse than dog-eat-dog. It's dog-doesn't-return-other-dog's-phone-calls, which reminds me. I should check my answering service.
Clifford Stern: [on receiving his love letter back] It's probably just as well. I plagiarized most of it from James Joyce. You probably wondered why all the references to Dublin.
Judah Rosenthal: And after the awful deed is done, he finds that he's plagued by deep-rooted guilt. Little sparks of his religious background which he'd rejected are suddenly stirred up. He hears his father's voice. He imagines that God is watching his every move. Suddenly, it's not an empty universe at all, but a just and moral one, and he's violated it. Now, he's panic-stricken. He's on the verge of a mental collapse-an inch away from confessing the whole thing to the police. And then one morning, he awakens. The sun is shining, his family is around him and mysteriously, the crisis has lifted. He takes his family on a vacation to Europe and as the months pass, he finds he's not punished. In fact, he prospers. The killing gets attributed to another person-a drifter who has a number of other murders to his credit, so I mean, what the hell? One more doesn't even matter. Now he's scott-free. His life is completely back to normal. Back to his protected world of wealth and privilege.
Lester: If it bends, it's funny. If it breaks, it isn't.
Clifford Stern: [to his wife] Honey, you're the one who stopped sleeping with me, ok. It'll be a year come April 20th. I remember the date exactly, because it was Hitler's birthday.
Judah Rosenthal: I remember my father telling me, "The eyes of God are on us always." The eyes of God. What a phrase to a young boy. What were God's eyes like? Unimaginably penetrating, intense eyes, I assumed. And I wonder if it was just a coincidence I made my specialty ophthalmology.
Clifford Stern: [on Professor Levy's demise] He left a note. He left a simple little note that said "I've gone out the window." This is a major intellectual and he leaves a note that says "I've gone out the window." He's a role-model. You'd think he'd leave a decent note.
Clifford Stern: A strange man... defecated on my sister. Wendy Stern: [pause] ... why?
Halley Reed: After all, he is an American phenomenon. Clifford Stern: Yeah, but so is acid rain.
Ben: It's a human life. You don't think God sees? Judah Rosenthal: God is a luxury I can't afford.
Cliff Stern: I think I see a cab. If we run quickly we can kick the crutch from that old lady and get it.
Lester: Comedy is tragedy plus time!
Halley Reed: [on the philosopher Lewis Levy] He was very eloquent on the subject of love, didn't you think? Clifford Stern: I wish I had met him before I got married. It would've saved me a gall bladder operation.
Clifford Stern: While we're waiting for a cab I'll give you your lesson for today. Don't listen to what your teachers tell ya, you know. Don't pay attention. Just, just see what they look like and that's how you'll know what life is really gonna be like.
Clifford Stern: [on Lester] When he tells you he wants to exchange ideas, what he wants is to exchange fluids.
Clifford Stern: [after being handed a box of Milk Duds] Great. Now I can get rid of my few remaining teeth.
Judah Rosenthal: If you want a happy ending, you should go see a Hollywood movie.
Clifford Stern: What is the guy so upset about? You'd think nobody was ever compared to Mussolini before.
Clifford Stern: [on Lester's films] I can't watch his stuff. It's sub-mental.
[There's this joke: about the prizefighter who enters the ring, and his brother turns to the family priest and says, "Father, pray for him." And the priest said, "I will, but if he can punch, it'll help."]
Lester: I told you I'm putty in your hands. Halley: What am I gonna do with a handful of putty?
[history is written by the winners. And if the Nazis had won, future generations would understand the story of World War ll quite differently]
Sol Rosenthal: Whether it's the Bible or Shakespeare, murder will out! Judah Rosenthal: Who said anything about murder? Sol Rosenthal: You did.
Lester: If it bends, it's funny, if it breaks it's not funny.
Halley: Don't get discouraged. You have your own personal vision.
Lester: If you play your cards right, you could have my body. Halley Reed: Wouldn't you rather leave it to science?
Clifford Stern: [of Lester] I love him like a brother... David Greenglass. [You could look him up]
Judah Rosenthal: [to Ben] Jack lives in the real world. You live in the kingdom of heaven. I'd managed to keep free of that real world but suddenly it's found me.
Halley Reed: I never say no to champagne... or caviar.
Judah Rosenthal: It's pure evil, Jack! A man kills for money and he doesn't even know his victims!
Judah Rosenthal: She's not an insect! You don't just step on her!
Ben: But the law, Judah. Without the law, it's all darkness.
[first lines] Testimonial Speaker: We're all very proud of Judah Rosenthal's philanthropic efforts. His endless hours of fund raising for the hospital, the new medical center, and now, the ophthalmology wing, which until this year had just been a dream. But it's due to Rosenthal our friend that we most appreciate. The husband, the father, the golf companion. Naturally if you have a medical problem you can call Judah... Miriam Rosenthal: You're blushing darling. Testimonial Speaker: ...day or night, weekends or holidays. But you can also call Judah to find out which is the best restaurant in Paris - or Athens. Or which hotel to stay at in Moscow. Or the best recording of a particular Mozart symphony... Sharon Rosenthal: My father's so nervous about having to get up to speak. Chris: I know, I know. I knew he was nervous when you didn't eat any of those cocktail weenies at the hors d'oeuvres. Miriam Rosenthal: He was so courageous all week. Then suddenly tonight, stage fright. Really Judah, you were fine until you got home from work today.