Wednesday, July 13, 2016

She Went LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR

Diane Keaton played the dedicated daytime schoolteacher cruising bars for one-night stands.  Richard Gere played the abusive jerk wearing a jockstrap and doing push-ups in her apartment.  This dark and somber look at the "swinging singles" scene in New York City at that time is 1977's LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR.  The movie is in the TCM primetime line-up for Thursday, July 14th.  If you think Diane Keaton only played lovable kooks in Woody Allen screwball comedies, please watch this film.

Ten or more years ago, I wondered if a film critic buddy of mine on local New York City television was aware of Diane Keaton's versatility.

Had he never seen REDS and SHOOT THE MOONBABY BOOM and MARVIN'S ROOMTHE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL and Woody Allen's Ingmar Bergman-esque drama, INTERIORS?  Sometimes, even veteran film critics just don't get it.  I think Best Actress Oscar winner may have been promoting her smooth, mature comedy SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, co-starring Jack Nicholson, at the time.  Entertainment reporter Neil Rosen, a good guy who's been the weekly movie critic for years on New York 1, the popular local all-news cable station, was interviewing Keaton and remarked that she usually doesn't play "strong women."  My jaw dropped down to the toes of my sneakers.  I blurted "Neil!  You didn't just say that!" standing alone in my apartment as I watched.  Ms. Keaton didn't exactly agree with him either.  She won her Oscar for her delicious performance as the title character in Woody Allen's comedy classic, ANNIE HALL.

I first noticed the lean, lanky actress way back when I was a kid and saw the 1970 comedy LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS.  That movie cast included Bea Arthur, Cloris Leachman, Anne Meara, Gig Young and Diane Keaton's future fellow cast member in THE GODFATHER, stout Richard S. Castellano.  Remember the pop hit The Carpenters had with "For All We Know"?  That tune was written for LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS and won the Oscar for Best Song.

Keaton's Best Actress Oscar nomination for ANNIE HALL was not the only one she received in her film career and ANNIE HALL was not her only film released in 1977.  The other one was not a comedy.  It was dark, discomforting and sexual.
It generated a lot of buzz for the handsome new actor, Richard Gere.
The movie was based on a best-selling novel.  The novel was inspired by a real-life Manhattan murder case.  You'll see another new actor in the fim who became a star in a TV mini-series.

 LeVar Burton hit big with millions of TV viewers in 1977's now classic mini-series, ROOTS.
I read the novel when I was in college and could not put it down.  It was gripping, adult and provocative.  What I could connect to in the tale of Terry, the teacher of special needs kids who walks on the wild side at night, was the emotional barbed wire religion can create when one wants to break free to find and feel one's own life.  She's Catholic.  I'm Catholic.  I understood what that dynamic could do in the family's parent/child relationship.

The much-respected actress Tuesday Weld got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for playing the teacher's sister.  The Broadway musical star of NO STRINGS and MAN OF LA MANCHA, singer/actor Richard Kiley, is the domineering Catholic father.  LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR was directed by Richard Brooks.


Brooks seemed drawn to stories that had a triangle of love, power and sex with a chill of approaching death in the air.  Look at CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, ELMER GANTRY and IN COLD BLOOD.  That triangle is evident in LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR and, with the Hollywood production code having been kicked to the curb, he didn't have to perform a writer's vasectomy when adapting the source material like he had to do with his 1950s adaptation of Tennessee Williams' CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.

The Thursday, July 14th, primetime line-up on TCM begins with Scorcese's ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE at 8p Eastern/5p Pacific.  That's followed by THE STEPFORD WIVES and then LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR.

This movie proves that Diane Keaton has indeed played "strong women" characters.  Complicated characters.  And she's played them quite well.
(One note from when I saw it in the '70s:  If you see LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR, notice the final scenes.  As one who lived in New York City for 20 years, that must've been one unseasonably warm New Year's Eve.  Not a flake of snow on the ground and folks are dressed like it's a December night in San Francisco.  That's just a wardrobe observation of mine.)                                                

After you see this severe Richard Brooks drama with Diane Keaton's compelling performance, you might appreciate Keaton's comedy brilliance in Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL even more.








 

1 comment:

  1. You know, I watched this movie when I was about 11 or so, staying up late to watch movies on HBO. I remember this movie and also the movie Carny (with Jodie Foster) because I was deeply disturbed by both of them.

    Anyway, I enjoy your reviews! I will be checking back, definitely.

    ReplyDelete

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