Ted Kramer's wife leaves her husband, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couple's son, deepening the wounds left by the separation.
Texas greenhorn Joe Buck arrives in New York for the first time. Preening himself as a real 'hustler', he finds that he is the one getting 'hustled' until he teams up with a down-and-out but resilient outcast named Ratso Rizzo. The initial 'country cousin meets city cousin' relationship deepens. In their efforts to bilk a hostile world rebuffing them at every turn, this unlikely pair progress from partners in shady business to comrades. Each has found his first real friend. Written by
I sat down to watch "Midnight Cowboy" thinking it would be another overrated '60s/'70s movie. Some of my favorite films come from the '70s, in the same vein as "Midnight Cowboy" ("Taxi Driver," "Mean Streets," "Panic in Needle Park," etc.) but there are many, many overrated ones as well that have gained strong reputations amongst critics for being groundbreaking - unfortunately a vast majority of them don't hold up as well today. I sort of feel this way about "Easy Rider." (Although it, too, is one of my favorites.)
So, I didn't expect much from "Midnight Cowboy" but got a lot back. It's a touching story, well-made and well-told with some of the best performances of all time. Dustin Hoffman, as Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo, gives one of his best - it's a bit funny at times (he sounds like a cartoon character when he speaks - maybe because of the Lenny/"Simpsons" connection), but Hoffman is entirely convincing. Half of the film's budget went towards his paycheck as he was just becoming a major star in Hollywood. Opposite him is the second-billed Jon Voight as Joe Buck, the "cowboy" who travels North to the Big Apple in the hopes of becoming a male prostitute. Soon his naive ways land him in trouble and he pairs up with a crippled scam artist named "Ratso" - who offers to become Joe's "manager" for a certain percentage of profits.
The movie is quite long at two hours but never really seems very long. Some films can tend to drag, especially some of the films that were made in the '70s because (as it's been said in "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls") the directors were the stars of the movies in the 1970s and occasionally they got a bit too infatuated with their material, going on too long examining characters/scenes/etc. that aren't important. Just about the only scene I felt was a bit too long and unnecessary was the drug party - it makes the film seem extremely outdated (similar to the drug odysseys in "Easy Rider") and really harms its flow because it's not needed.
Other than that, "Midnight Cowboy" is an almost flawless motion picture. I was pleasantly surprised. It does have its flaws (flashbacks are a bit tacky and never used as well as they could have been, for instance) and some of the scenes are a bit uneasy (such as the gay movie theater sequence) but if you can handle its content "Midnight Cowboy" is a truly great motion picture, an uncompromising examination of life on the streets in the late '60s/early '70s. It's a depressing movie, yes, and by today's standards might seem a bit outdated and heavy on the liberal perspective of "life is horrible, etc."...but I still love it and particularly the extremely touching ending will stay with me for a long, long time.
Highly recommended. One of the best films of the '70s. (It was technically released in late 1969 but I'd still categorize it as a 1970s film. It also won the Best Picture Oscar, being the first - and only - X-rated motion picture to do so. It was later re-rated R on appeal.)
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