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Midnight Cowboy
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Midnight Cowboy More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Two losers adrift in dirty old New York=masterpiece (spoilers)

Author: billys from Columbus, OH
16 May 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's a shame that John Schlesinger arguably never again made a movie as thrillingly good as this dramedy starring John Voight and Dustin Hoffman; he demonstrates a complete mastery of the film-making craft through then-cutting-edge techniques like quick cutting, playing with color, montage, and (my favorite) some very unnerving electronic sound effects and music (courtesy of legendary composer and studio engineer Walter Sear). Parts of this movie look like something you would as easily find in an MTV video as in an avant-garde cinema.

His main on screen talent here are the very young future father of Angelina Jolie as Joe Buck, a good looking but pathetically naive Texan who hops a Greyhound bus to New York City in hopes of making a fortune servicing the sexual needs of rich "society type" women. Once he arrives, decked out in his cowboy costume, cowhide suitcase, and transistor radio, he immediately finds the city to be...inhospitable. Frustrated and broke, he finally makes a friend--Enrico Salvatore "Ratso" Rizzo (Hoffman), a put-upon gimp who offers to hook Joe up with a friend. For a nominal service fee, of course. Turns out, after Ratso's run off with his money, that Joe's been screwed once again--cue frightening revenge/unpleasant flashback montage--and now, frustrated, broke, AND homeless, he turns to hustling very un-society-type guys, who can't or won't pay either. Somehow, Joe runs into Ratso again. First overjoyed, then apoplectic, he demands his $20 back, but then gets more than he bargained for: Ratso invites Joe to come stay with him. The rest of the movie documents the misadventures of these two lost souls as they try to survive the cruel and grungy cesspool that is (was) New York City, or at least long enough to get the ailing Ratso down to his personal paradise, Florida.

Midnight Cowboy paints a sharp portrait of the grime and degradation that characterized NYC at the time; with tons of neat little details to fill in the blanks (the payphone that doesn't work, the psychedelic party, the snippets of radio broadcasts). If you remember nothing else of this movie, you'll remember the smoky, grungy atmosphere. But there is so much more, not the least of which are the actors and their memorably colorful characters: Hoffman's cagey, streetwise con artist, Voight's time-bomb bumpkin, Sylvia Miles famous middle-aged "gorgeous chick," an unrecognizable Bob Balaban as a young gay john, Barnard Hughes as Joe's unfortunate final john, Brenda Vaccaro as his REALLY gorgeous next-to-final client, John McGiver as Ratso's "friend O'Daniel," and last but not least the one dude who played Ratso's sneery, effeminate gay tormenter in his opening scene.

These odd people all demonstrate that vivid color is often hidden in all the gray squalor and the overall effect is often disturbing but always intriguing. Not to mention that friendship and bonding often happen between the unlikeliest parties under the most challenging circumstances. Ultimately it's a story of hope and redemption, although at a price that's considerably more than a nominal service fee. Very poignant and disturbing all at once.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

You've Gotta Make A living Somehow

Author: beerzen
30 April 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I expected this movie to be extremely depressing. Don't get me wrong, it was somewhat a bummer. However I found myself wondering how Joe Buck could be so naive as to get himself in the position he got in. His character was rather goofy too.

I did like this movie overall though. I think I had certain expectation going in and it turned out to be a little different than I expected.

The plot is amusing at first then starts down a dark alley and ends... well it ends. I suppose Joe Buck's naivety are part of his character and help make the movie what it is. Ratso is definitely a different type that is worn down by being sick and poor in the big city life.

**Slight Spoiler***

The interplay between these two characters is rather interesting. The two most unlikely people to be friends. Yet they make great friends toward the end you wonder how they ever lived without each other.

I really felt for both characters. I was hoping Joe Buck would wise up a little and that Ratso would get some medical attention. Despite both characters having qualities that annoyed me I wanted them to prevail. The way that their humanity was shown was rather compelling.

**End Slight Spoiler**

The movie progresses at a nice pace. The climatic ending was not what I thought it's be. However it rather tied up the movie nicely and left me with a feeling of completion.

The historical fact that this was rated X in the 60s was interesting to me. Just to note how nowadays it isn't a racy as it was then, a reflection on society's standards.

I would recommend this movie. The acting of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight with the offbeat subject matter makes in an entertaining watch.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

One of the more poignant films I've seen

Author: Ichiro from United States
16 January 2004

Schlesinger toys with reality in "Midnight Cowboy," overlaying dream and memory imagery intermingled to the point that no one can rely on the conscious direction of Joe Buck, the film's central character. When the film opens, Joe is leaving his small town in Texas for the big city, harboring dreams of making it rich as a high-priced gigolo. Even within the first few minutes, Joe is looking into the window of an empty beauty parlor, reflecting on his childhood with his grandmother. And from that moment, one questions just what Grandma's relationship with Joe is--she has him massage her neck while calling him loverboy.

Later, more images in Joe's memory are juxtaposed to reinforce our fears: we see Joe in bed with Grandma and one of her old cowboy lovers (obviously where he got the misconception that a cowboy hat makes a man "one hell of a stud"); we also see her giving him an enema, juxtaposed with Joe as a young man getting sodomized by a gang of boys who resent that he is exclusively sleeping with the town pump, thereby denying her services to anyone else. Clearly, a lot of violation goes on in this flick.

But this serves as backstory only, for the real heart of the drama is Joe's relationship with the scroungy Ratso Rizzo, a knowing New York native who takes Joe in and shows him the ropes. The frustrating thing about the film is the inability of these characters to get a life--it takes Joe until the end of the film to realize he's neither a great cowboy nor a great lover--and go get a decent job. They live in an abandoned building, steal and cheat people, and struggle through a hard New York winter. Ratso's tubercular cough gets suspiciously worse, and all of this leads to a moment of truth, when Joe Buck must make sacrifice and change for the love of his friend.

Some suggest that these two are gay lovers--if so, it is never specifically stated in the film. While they do set up a household of sorts, with Ratso assuming the domestic wife's role, both seem to be an almost asexual cypers.

The film is not easy to get through in places, but not so offensive and disturbing that one can't. Rather, its plumbing of our emotional depths is what leaves us feeling empty and grateful at the same time.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Stellar Voight & Hoffman; The First (and last) "x" rated Best Picture Oscar winner

Author: ( from fairview, nj
11 April 2003

MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969) **** Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvia Miles. First and last "X" rated film to win Best Picture (although an R by today's standards for its rather risque themes of the times) and Oscar winner for director John Schlesinger and Best Screenplay Adaptation by Waldo Salt based on James Leo Herlihy's novel about would-be Texan cowboy/hustler Joe Buck (Voight in a winningly naive Oscar nominated perf) comes to the big Apple to make his stand as a first-class gigolo and meets scuzz bag Ratso Rizzo (memorable Hoffman), a filthy cripple out to scam anyone for a few measly dollars. Gritty, realistic and almost documentary-like in presentation with some wonderful images and a great song by Harry Nilsson "Everybody's Talkin' ". Best line: Ratso (to cabdriver): "I'm walkin' here!"

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

"Everybody's talking at me, I don't hear a word they're saying, only the echos in my mind."

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
5 February 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

spoilers herein...

It is almost as if Nilsson's song had been written for this film, as it sums up where Joe Buck (Jon Voight) is for all but the last few minutes of this fine landmark film. Voight was 30 and unknown, while Dustin Hoffman (Rico "Ratzo") was 31 when it was filmed, just coming off "The Graduate". I was 23 when it came out and recall seeing a more mature Voight. Today, viewing the 1998 VHS re-issue I see a very young Voight. Only now, with his film history established, can we see what a fine actor he already was, perfectly characterizing a simple and naive dishwasher from Big Spring, Texas, who goes to NYC to become a hustler, "cashing in on all the rich women there who are willing to pay for 'IT'", he tells a fellow dishwasher.

Joe is admitedly not very smart, almost a 'Forrest Gump', and grows up around his grandmother who calls him "lover boy" and always tells him he is the best-looking guy around. Flashback images even hint that he may have been sexually abused, but that is not clear nor necessary to explain his formation. As a young adult he declares, "The only thing I've ever been good at is loving", meaning the sex act which rhymes with his last name.

Dressed in a cowboy outfit, boots, colorful shirt, and his portable radio as his constant companion, his bus trip to NYC is used to display total lack of sophistication, radio constantly at his ear. Finally getting a NYC station fills him with visions of beautiful, rich women just waiting for him, willing to enrich him in return for his 'services.' Having a bit of money saved, and thinking he will strike it rich, he eagerly spends it on others around him, "drinks for everyone, and my friend here." But Joe gets a quick wake-up call, doesn't realize that he is being hustled by others, including the sick and homeless 'Ratzo', soon finding himself broke, locked out of his hotel room, without even being able to get his suitcase that looked like a former-time Gateway Computer box with a handle.

Joe and Ratzo become an unlikely pair, Ratzo owing him for having cheated Joe out of $20, Joe needing a place to stay, ending up in the ratty unheated apartment in a condemned building. Ratzo coughs a lot, sweats, can hardly walk, it is obvious that he can't last too much longer. He only dreams and longs to go to Florida and, in a funny and whimsical dream scene we see him and Joe running on the beach. Not only is Ratzo running without a limp, he runs faster than Joe, as they are laughing and having a great time. There are several other funny scenes, which fit perfectly into the story and are not forced at all. In one, Joe kicks open a lock on a street shoeshine stand, and gets into the chair as Ratzo begins to shine his boots. Soon a pair of shoes appear next to the boots, the camera pans and we see a police officer. As Ratzo works on the second pair, another client shows up. In another, during the winter, ice coming out of the faucet, and Joe and Ratzo have to do a little dance in the apartment to keep from freezing too!

Ratzo says, "Frankly, you're beginning to smell, and for a stud in New York that's a handicap." Joe was getting near the bottom. He found a little mnoney by selling his blood. He had to hock his radio for $5. This metaphorically represented his finally severing any connection with the "real" world which he imagined, and then could he complete his journey into a personal hell, from which he might seek redemption. In the ugliest scene in the movie he is in a hotel room with a man, desperately needs money for bus tickets to get his sick friend, Ratzo, to Florida. He hits the old man, then stuffs and turns the black phone into the man's mouth, which is one of the very few scenes I remember from 30+ years ago. It isn't totally clear, but we feel that he killed the man, the deepest and darkest point of his desperate young life.

Joe and Ratzo finally get to Florida, buy some "tropical" clothes, Joe stuffs all his cowboy getup into a trash can, and Joe tells Ratzo, "I don't think I'm really cut out to be a hustler. I'm going to get a real job, something outdoors." Joe is growing up. He still has to live with his errors, he still has to make his new dreams happen, but the film is about the chapter in his life that had just concluded with his awakening.

Ratzo becomes unresponsive, as Joe talks to him in the adjacent bus seat. As they are arriving into the Miami area, Ratzo has died. But he got to Florida first. Joe can only put his arm around Ratzo, while his eyes reveal a thousand things going on inside. What will become of Joe? We never find out, but somehow we believe that Joe has begun to understand his place in life and things just might work out.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The 2nd Best rated X film there is

Author: Andrew Benjamin ( from Long Island, New York
10 July 2001

This is one great film. The movie stars two vetern actors Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. The movie is a about Joe Buck (Voight) who goes to NYC as a "cowboy" gigolo. He ain't doing that well until he meets Ratzo Rizzo (Hoffman). He becomes Buck's manager and develop a friendship for each other. This movie couldn't be any better. It has acting, a great plot, and themes. You may have to watch it twice, just like I did to understand it better. I got it and now it is one of my favorites.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Powerful, gritty, heartwarming, sad, funny - truly great!

Author: cookieatkerson from Columbia, SC
23 June 2000

One of the best movies of our time - truly sensational (I've seen it over a dozen times). The acting, the story, the music, the cinematography, the directing were all excellent. This was truly a work of art - gritty, heartwarming, funny and sad! Everyone should see this excellent movie!

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

simply superb

Author: eljay_2000 from Cornwall
25 March 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


This film is funny in places (Dustin Hoffman: "HEY I'M WALKING HERE! I SAID I'M WALKING HERE!!" to the taxi driver), sad in places (the final scenes), and very weird in places (that woman and the toy mouse, as well as the party), but above all is tremendously entertaining to watch. Dustin Hoffman is magnificent as Enrico Rizzo, the sleazy conman. Jon Voight is quite good but also quite irritating as Joe Buck, the naive cowboy/hustler. The way the two characters with opposite personalities are drawn together makes entertaining viewing, and the film has a emotional and heartfelt ending, as Joe hugs the body of his dead friend on the coach. The relationship between the two is reminiscent of that of Lenny and George in "Of Mice And Men". Funny, entertaining, and sad, this film is one of the classics of its generation.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Only Real Film

Author: James M. Gullard ( from Baltimore, Maryland
10 February 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


This is, in my opinion, the only film that is true to real life, from the first mention of Joe Buck wanting to be a hustler out of excitement up until the end where he pays for his life of parties with a life of dread. The movie appears to be normal, until the party scene at the house of the brother and sister Hansel and Gretel. This wild, acid trip of a party really brings out the character of the sixties. Some scenes may seem funny (Ratso stealing food, Ratso falling down) but really aren't. These scenes actually show the reality of life. Somethings aren't as easy as they appear. Along with Schindler's List, I think that this is one of the hardest films to watch. This is mainly in part to the scene where Joe attacks Towny, a man who invites Joe up to his room for mysterious reasons, and steals his money. Another upsetting part is the end when Ratso dies. Just as Joe says he's giving up being a hustler and about 5 minutes before arriving in Miami, Ratso dies on the bus, as every passenger stares with wonder as Joe embraces the dead body of his only friend in the world. A must see.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A brave, sad, lonely film

Author: Blakey-4 from milton, ma
14 July 1999

Parts of this movie definitely don't age well (psychedelic party scenes, in particular), but it remains one of the most heartwrenching films ever made. No one has ever captured the forbidding, urban loneliness of New York so well, and Toots Thielmann's sadly exquisite harmonica score is enough to bring tears to your eyes, as does Harry Nielson's title song. What is also depressing about this film--in a different way--is the knowledge that it could never be made in Hollywood today. What studio today would ever make such a sad, depressing film?

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