Cinderella Liberty (1973)
User ReviewsReview this title
A word of warning though: the abysmal Paul Williams score and singing are rivaled only by Richard Baskin's infamous turn in "Welcome to L.A." for sheer auditory torture.
Of particular note is the fine job Eli Wallach does with the minor part of Baggs' nemesis Forshay. It's a memorable moment when Baggs, asking Forshay, as he is drummed out of the service without benefits or pension, "Where are you going? Home?", hears Forshay reply "THIS was home." The combination of sadness, bitterness, and fear of the future that Wallach puts into these three words is testimony to his power as an actor.
A bit of judicious editing might have been called for, as the movie was a tad long (cutting Paul Williams' execrable songs would have been a good place to start), but none the less it's a feel-good movie that rises above its gritty setting.
She has a black child who is street wise and sensitive at the same time. The film depicts the relationship between Mason and Caan. Mason is not an Anna Magnani of "The Rose Tattoo" memory though she tries to be a loving companion one moment only to descend into hysterics at another time.
Their one opportunity to find happiness leads to sadness when she gives birth to a child only to lose it a week later. John, desperately trying to show kindness and responsibility is also devastated.
Though Mason abandons both Caan and the black child at the end, the film ends when Johnny is able to change places with Eli Wallach, who portrays a naval person who was thrown out of the navy. With the change in identity, John and the boy can pursue Mason to New Orleans where she has gone.
The fairy tale of "Cinderella" ended happily. This non-fairy tale ends with some encouragement but we realize the plight of those down on their luck in this society.
Truly an act of unconditional love as never seen before. The person who wrote this has a soul of gold.
If you ever want to know what true love is all about and what it entails...see this film, because you will be in no doubt afterwards.
Baggs is a low-key sort of fellow. But he doesn't take any guff from anyone. Maggie is on welfare. She lives with her eleven-year old son, Doug, in a dingy apartment in a dingy tenement building. Baggs tries to help the kid, but Doug has lots of emotional baggage, as does his mother.
The main characters are somewhat tragic. Baggs is certainly no war hero. Indeed, he's rather ordinary, but very caring. Yet, despite his best efforts to unite the three of them into a family, things don't always work out. But the film has a surprise ending that helps offset earlier distressing plot points.
Mostly downbeat and depressing, "Cinderella Liberty" is very 1970ish. Cinematography conveys an evocative mood, dark and dreary, and some of the images have a reddish tint. Post Viet Nam, the military is portrayed as somewhat bumbling. There's an obvious absence of military bravado and swagger, which engenders the story with a sense of realism.
Casting and acting are fine. The chemistry between Caan and Mason seems genuine. The film was shot entirely on-location in Seattle. No film studios were used.
This is a story of dashed hopes, of opportunities lost. Although not for everyone, mostly because of the very slow plot pace, "Cinderella Liberty" is a realistic, character driven story, the kind that's rarely made by contemporary Hollywood.
Jump forward to the late '80s and catch a CBS "48 Hours" episode about the lives of sailors on a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. It was a good, solid piece of expository work that showed the violent excitement and danger of a carrier's flight operations contrasted with the much, much more mundane doings below decks, in the galley, the engineering spaces, etc. Said one sailor, covered with grease and saturated by sweat, "You're never gonna see a movie titled "Top Engineer."
I've always held a deep, abiding respect for our Navy (I even considered joining at the start of the Reagan years), but the tedium of swabbing decks somewhere down there in the large intestine of a flattop just didn't grab me.
And I said no.
Which brings us to Cinderella Liberty, a not-really-a-chick-flick with James Caan as a career swabbie, a guy who joined because he needed a steady gig, and Marsha Mason as the non-Hollywood-traditional whore he befriends in Seattle. I say non-traditional because she is NOT Julia Roberts but a chemical-saturated and beaten-up-by-life hooker who is trying to figure out how to take care of her adolescent son, keep a roof over their heads, and not get too involved with Caan. This proves difficult for Caan because he--like me--finds Mason imperfectly lovely, sexy, and appealing.
CL is such a (and I hate to use this cliché, but I will) slice of life (under the waterline, that is) with Caan having no great ambition other than to maintain his rank and his dental integrity while helping Mason and her son, not to mention his friend Eli Wallach.
Caan is a essentially a skilled grease monkey--no deep thinking here-- and he turns the hooker cliché on its head. He's the one with the heart of gold, not Mason. As you watch, she becomes less and less appealing. Her self-destructive impulses overwhelm her prettiness. Bad decisions blot out a perky nose, coy overbite, and non-fashion-model curves.
To add an extra layer of quality to the story, there's Seattle herself, here more matronly and replenishment ship homely than in your travel brochure. The Emerald City is rendered by the locale choices to feel working class, not flight-deck glamorous.
In closing, I recommend Cinderella Liberty because it is an honest film with nice, believable people and a story that shows rust streaks and all.
It's a fine entertainment.
If you liked 'Last Detail' from the same era, same writer-then by all means check this out. I liked this-and so will you. Look for Dabney Coleman, Sally Kirkland and Burt 'Paulie on Rocky' Young in smaller roles.
*** outta ****
Mason got an Oscar nomination. When she got exposed by the social worker, she has a terrific moment of desperation and anger. It's an excellent acting overall. Same goes for Caan. It's a rambling plot but that's not a problem. The actual problem is the kid. Kid actors are often a hit or miss proposition. This one is mostly a miss. He doesn't really have any charisma. It makes it more difficult to develop chemistry with Baggs. This is quite fine and would be great with a better kid.
There he meets another person with nowhere to be--a woman. They have some fun and then have sex in a way that is not entirely wholesome but isn't entirely sordid. It's as close as they get to being alive, so they follow up on it.
By now, you can label everybody, and attach those big dismissive labels to the characters to allow yourself to enjoy not being them. Slut. Black. Stooge. Sailor. Drunk. Whore. Just pile up the labels until you feel adequately insulated.
But if you take this movie straight, with no chaser, it will make you wonder about the difference between a sailor and a guy dressed up like a sailor (it's the same thing).
Great movie. Some of my favorite actors doing a fine job. See it.