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Most of the score is terrible; occasionally there are some pop-jazz harmonies that scream simulated culture as loudly as Epcot Center. Prolonged exposure would cause tinnitus, headache, blurred vision and nausea progressing to nosebleed, unconsciousness, cerebral hemorrhage and death.
Scott Jacoby is not only precocious, he's precocious on steroids, and it's fairly common knowledge that long term abuse of those chemicals can turn human beings into aliens. Some aliens are cute 'n cuddly while others can make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. I don't know if Oedipus was precocious, but I'm quite certain he never used steroids.
At times the eye behind the viewfinder saw things in SoapOperaVision.
From the positive review by Bill Davis: "A sex scene in the movie, involving the boy and his sitter, would probably result in criminal charges today." Which is a nice way of saying that it may cross the kiddie-porn line - it came a bit too close for my complete comfort.
But even with the above, and some other problems, I was still fascinated by this movie. Joan Hackett, (who was almost always dependable), and Robert Klein are quite good and surprisingly likable. And there are some parts that are genuinely funny and genuinely strange.
Just for the sake of oddity, this may deserve a look, I think.
*** Semi-Spoilers ***
This story doesn't have a happy ending: some refer to what happens as tragic - I would call it grisly.
Also Klein tells the following pretty good joke, (although the dollar amount firmly dates it):
"My father was an analyst. You know, someone who borrows your watch, tells you the time, and charges you fifty dollars."
It is basically about a boy living with his mother in New York who makes his own films and doesn't want any man to interfere with their lives. The mother is lonely, and naturally wants to have a man in her life. The boy rejects all his mother's suiters and spends his time making Sesame Street-type films with neighborhood kids. When his mother falls for the most irritating man imaginable (he basically taunts her into bed with him), the son becomes isolated and weird. We see his films, which become like an acid inspired orgy, crossed with the mother making love to her man and memories. In one disturbing scene the mother confesses to a friend that giving birth to her son was "like an orgasm". The thing is like a confused and poorly made Oedipus story. The boy argues with his mother and his step-father and goes revenge-crazy. The shocker climax in which the mother is killed is poorly handled and feels simply cruel rather than dramatic or purposeful. This is a really poor attempt to make a psychodrama about a disturbed child.
This acid-age indie mess is worth missing. If you want a good on-the-fringe picture from the time, you can't do better than MEAN STREETS. If you're looking for another movie like this, good luck finding it, but if you do BURN IT! Mistakes like this should be tracked down and destroyed.