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A young college student is sent to prison as much for killing a pedestrian with his car as for not paying his parking tickets. When the opportunity presents itself he escapes and is subsequently on the run with his girlfriend. But how long can this situation last? Written by
Kevin Steinhauer <K.Steinhauer@BoM.GOV.AU>
It seems almost forgotten nowadays, which really is too bad. It's a thoughtful drama, adapted by Jon Boothe and George Sherman from the novel by Thomas Rogers. It tells a good story in a straightforward manner, refraining from indulging in any filler and giving impressive acting showcases to a fine bunch of actors.
Michael Sarrazin stars as William Popper, a college student who accidentally kills an old woman while driving in the rain one night. He's soon sent to prison, but what really screwed him more than the actual crime was the dim view that the system took of him, seeing a morally dubious young man with a serious disregard for law and order; not only was he driving with a license that he claims he didn't know expired, but he hadn't been paying his parking tickets.
While in prison, he becomes increasingly dismayed at the absurdity of the events in which he's caught up. Seeking to find some way to express himself, he seizes the opportunity for escape when it occurs, and implores his free spirited girlfriend Jane Kauffman (a very young and very gorgeous Barbara Hershey) to join him in his quest for freedom.
Boothe, Sherman, and director Robert Mulligan use this entertaining tale to make larger statements about the folly of human ignorance and the way that society at large can often impose its idea of how people should behave on the younger generation. Despite his good intentions, William continuously finds himself in trouble, whether he's admitting to being an atheist or lending some assistance to a homosexual fellow con (Gilbert Lewis). He's a young man frustrated by the injustices of the world and the whole aspect of chance. At least William has some people on his side, including his enthusiastic friend Melvin (comedian Robert Klein), his loving father John (Arthur Hill), and his formidable grandmother (Ruth White, who delivers a commanding performance). But he remains restless right to the end.
Sarrazin and Hershey are engaging in the leads, and the supporting cast features a number of familiar and reliable performers:E.G. Marshall as Williams' lawyer uncle, Sada Thompson as his aunt, David Doyle as an amiable con, Barnard Hughes as a judge, Ralph Waite as a detective, Rue McClanahan as an angry relative to the accident victim, and Charles Durning in a bit as a police guard. William Devane turns up late in the film, but makes a strong impression as a sleazy pilot whom William approaches for help.
This film is good enough, and likable enough, to deserve to be better known. At the very least, fans of the cast and director should be intrigued enough to want to give it a look.
Eight out of 10.
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