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The young art student Eddie wants to live a life without troubles or responsibilities. He meets Pam and they fall in love. But happy-go-lucky Eddie declares that he won't marry her. Soon Pam is pregnant, and Eddie must face up to the problem... Written by
Sometimes the real value of a fictional work (insert film here) lies in the historical clues provided about the sociological attitudes prevalent at the time it was produced. "The Young Lovers" (1964) offers a reasonably accurate glimpse into the life of a typical college student in the early 1960's. It makes for an especially good comparative viewing experience when paired with "Getting Straight" (1970). The plot, the themes, the setting, and the characters in the two films are virtually identical. Yet in the six years between their production the challenges and concerns of the college student changed to a incredible degree.
Imagine being a high school student in the mid to late 1960's with aspirations of attending college after graduation. Your mindset and expectations formed by films like "The Young Lovers" but your reality after matriculation much closer to "Getting Straight".
Both films are told from the point of view of a somewhat unconventional California college student on the verge of graduation. They are coming of age stories in which the hero gradually becomes aware that his luxury of being a rebellious free thinker is rapidly coming to an end. They are being forced to make the hard choice between a conventional-responsible adulthood and continuing their somewhat free- spirited existence. A certain degree of conformity will be required if they are to successfully pass out of the institution. But "The Young Lovers" Eddie Slocum (Peter Fonda) faces a conventional choice about marriage and family. Harry Bailey (Elliott Gould) in "Getting Straight" is spared this (by 1970 marriage was old-fashioned), his decision is a political one about compromising his principals to conform with straight society.
For Eddie, Tarragoo (Nick Adams), Pam (Sharon Hugueny), and Debbie (Deborah Walley) the principle conflict in their lives is sexual frustration. Six years later the "free love" movement presumably allowed college students to focus on more substantive issues. Eddie's on-again off-again relationship with Pam would be recycled with very different results in three late 1960's films; "Goodbye Columbus", "The Graduate" , and "Adam at 6AM".
Despite being "Sam Goldwyn Jr.'s sole directing effort, "The Young Lovers" is a very modest budget black and white film. Although it has some spots of nice cinematography, it has several too obvious in-studio outdoor sequences. They go out on a nice shot of Eddie following Pam down a long outdoor stairway, but the scene loses much of its power because cut into it are shots of Eddie standing in front of a projected campus background.
Watch for the symbolic use of balloons throughout the film (which are even seen in the final shot); they are probably there to represent freedom but their juxtaposition by the film's editor is so forced that the meaning (if any) is never clear.
The pre - "Easy Rider" Fonda gives a decent performance and zips around campus on a beat-up Triumph motorcycle. Hugueny is nothing special but has the correct mousy look they needed for her character. She and Fonda share the film's best scene, a Spanish dance sequence very early in the story during which she lets her hair down (literally) and transforms into a very hot property. Adams is obviously too old for his part but it doesn't hurt the film. Walley is absolutely adorable (super pretty-especially so with her hair up) and acts circles around the other three. Fonda is the only one of the four still living (kind of scary).
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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