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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A movie that can make even the most jaded viewer dead silent as the end
Following the sexual exploits of a newly independent woman beginning with an infidelity with her college professor then escalating into a wild singles scene that includes a hopped-up gigolo (Richard Gere), cocaine and a score of random sexual encounters, "In Cold Blood" Director Richard Brooks juggles Keaton's wild nightlife, her day job as a deaf-school teacher, and her frustrating family squabbles with style and ease, sporadically glimpsing into her vividly morbid imagination as if it were really happening.
Many films about a character's escalation into an out of control lifestyle will have a message intact, but Brooks brings the viewer so close to the madness it all seems normal somehow, making the odyssey more energetically adventurous than foreboding.
Keaton has never been so good, flawlessly mixing determination, sensuality, stubbornness and vulnerability. This one will stick with you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The true story of a physically challenged young woman whose life ended
tragically one New Year's Eve inspired Judith Rossner's lurid best seller.
This movie version quickly followed and it hasn't aged well. Richard
Brooks was known for heavy message films (Elmer Gantry, In Cold Blood) and
he weighs Goodbar down with not-too-subtle Freudian overtones, an
out-of-touch preachiness, and Belle du Jour-like dream sequences. It was
the 64 year old director's way of scolding the promiscuous seventies youth
and the creakiness shows. The consolation, however, is the casting of Diane
Keaton. Her work here makes Goodbar a small conversation piece (her work
and the ending I should say) and combined with Annie Hall the same year shot
her to stardom. She captures Theresa's Jeckyll/Hyde-like duality through
sheer force of personality and adds some layers along the way. Keaton was
known for being Woody Allen's sidekick and the Godfather's background music
until Brooks took a risk and cast her. Cheers to Richard! That example is
almost unheard of today.
Unfortunately, the men don't fair as well. It was the time when every young, hot looking male actor wanted to be Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro; Tom Berenger and Richard Gere were no exeptions. Both were incredibly inexperienced and filled their scenes with an over-the-top theatricality that borders on camp. William Atherton shows some dignity but his James is schlock and underwritten.
Even though the murder sequence is chillingly effective, the final message "Women who enjoy sex have to die!" is much more disturbing. And dated. Female characters have moved way beyond this prehistoric philosophy making Goodbar look almost misogynous and like a black spot on seventies films. Still, the teacher by day/bar cruiser by night story could be compelling in the hands of someone with sympathy, talent, and intelligence. But I can't think of anyone for the job.
`Looking for Mr. Goodbar' takes you back to an era a mere 24 autumns ago
when people thought a bit differently about certain things. Regular
weren't beyond imagining that if they went to enough booty-shake
discotheques they could 'mack it up' on a Hefner-Guccione level with a
grease monkey's paycheck.. But for most of these regular garden variety
heterosexuals, the levels of sexual promiscuity did not increase all that
dramatically in the '70s (as documented by some famous surveys).
toward sex changed much more than the actual amount of sex. But because
all the myths floating around the zeitgeist, there was a constant weird
anxiety in the air about being left behind and missing the party and the
wild sexual adventures that everyone else was supposed to be having. In
order to 'keep up with the Disco Bunny Jonses' a lot of people did a lot
stupid things that were majorly frowned upon by rock'n'roll-disco-haters
(themselves busy worshipping idols often quite beyond ridiculous) for a
decade and a half to come (no one could go anywhere near a late '70s
record without plenty of embarrassment before Quentin Tarantino decided
make Travolta hip again in '95 and everything once associated with
Using recreations of 'scenes' that were a common occurrence in that era of getting lost in 'a fool's ecstatic paradise of Disco fever, casual sex and cocaine sniffing' Brooks has a field day satirizing those multitudes whose commitment to experimentation had came out of purely superficial, hedonistic, or even just 'faddish' motives, not any deeper need to find themselves, and how these superficialities often short-changed people like the Diane Keaton character who were maybe, more or less, trying for a genuine personal liberation and growth (the first wave of counter-culture values had already been mass-media commercialized and completely marginalized by ten-zillion pseudo-poseur-suburban-middle-class-hippies devaluing completely in a few years what the original small community of hippies had tried to build, and the two major popular-culture backlashes against that were Punk rock and Disco music, both retaining certain segments of the hippies' drugs and sex angle and heightening it to an extreme while dumping the pseudo-philosophy for much shallower hedonistic or nihilistic pseudo ones of their own brand) .
`Looking for Mr. Goodbar' stars Diane Keaton as a young woman from a strict Catholic family who had to overcame a spinal handicap in childhood by being confined to a bed for a year, and through that trial of prolonged suffering at an early age has gained an existential understanding, a temperate maturity or 'humble madman's communion with the absurd' that her sister (Tuesday Weld) and most of the people she meets, don't have. At first, she has low-self-esteem and feels insecure about the scar on her back, but gradually, as many men are turned on by her quiet strength, sense of humor and shy charm, find her beautiful, make love to her and don't mind the scar, she realizes that she can ditch the headaches of her dysfunctional family and live on her own terms: as a liberated post-feminist-era '70s woman. When her married teacher and first lover quickly and bizarrely transforms from initially seeming to be her ideal 'soul mate' to not much more than a conceited, 'traditional' manipulative jerk with 'hipster' lingo (who, among other things, initiates her in the ways of 'post-sexual-revolution' 'let's-all-be-hip-and-brutally-honest-and-beyond-that-square-jive' ritual, throws a tantrum when she gives him a Christmas present , and tells her he doesn't like touching a woman after he's just f'd her) she decides to see if she can't do much better than him, get a bit hedonistic and take revenge, sleep around some to see who's got what and what's out there from first-hand experience, just like only men would've been privileged to do with impunity and without loss of reputation until just a few years before. She's not too confident about being able to score another man, but not as shy as before either, now that she's had some experience. She knows it's time to move on or she'll be taken advantage of forever. The great, unsentimental '70s thing about it all which doesn't happen quite often enough these days (in the movies or real life) is that she takes her very real disappointment and hurt in a 'hip' and wise perspective and doesn't let it bother her beyond the 'suicide-attempt-fantasy' she indulges, fully aware of how ridiculous and vain it would be. There's a humorous tone to the whole fantasy sequence as she laughs at the absurd, farcical forces she'd be manipulating and what pathetic motivators they are for taking your own life. She's definitely hip to a `Broken Hearts are for A--holes' anti-sentimental, anti-masochistic attitude as being the right one for progressive spirits and that's the one she adopts with much mirth and a smile on her face.
She gets a job teaching deaf first graders, and is able to be extra-patient with them because she understands their struggle and suffering, having gone through a form of it herself. She's super-nice, proper, and respectable; yet at night, true to her plans for liberating her sexuality , she's ready to be 'wild.' `Mr. Goodbar' is somewhere to be found but she feels the need to loosen 'up and out' of her upbringing. She starts hitting the singles bars and is flattered and surprised when a guy with some grade A looks ( Richard Gere) picks her to hit on. In the bedroom, she's amazed that Gere/Tony can bang away without expiring, take a break and do slap-pushups in a g-string jockstrap (Brooks poking fun here at the ratings system which lets you show as much naked buttock as you want within an R-rating but definitely no penis), and then get back again to the sex when the mood strikes him. She prefers Gere's 'street-wise' stupidity and hang-up-less sexuality to William Atherton's intelligent but repressed liberal who also tries to see her. After Gere stands her up on a date and turns out to be too much of a hustler and gigolo to provide her with what she needs, she even starts to turn a couple of casual tricks for fun, pretending to be a hooker and accepting money. Why this `Bell de Jour' syndrome of trying to break out of bourgeois morality at any cost? Because the alternative seems a hopelessly depressing dead-end of mediocre comforts with no real charge or excitement just as in Bunuel's film for Catherine Deuneuve. That's one of the many important observations made in the film: that reaching a certain transcendence through sexuality is damn near impossible within a bourgeois value system and morality, and it seems even more so to someone who's been trapped in that system her whole life. Even glamorous self-destruction and pointless 'kicks' seem eminently preferable to going back to that kind of stifling mediocrity and misery.
Brooks doesn't try to moralize or show that Diane Keaton's liberated attitude in wanting lots of sexual experiences 'just for the hell of it' is wrong. Why should she not be the venerated 'stud' or 'Don Juan' that a man would be considered in her place and instead be disvalued as a 'trollop' or 'slut'? In fact, Keaton's a heroine of sorts in the film in the way she guiltlessly gravitates toward further sexual awakenings without sinking into outright decadence, even after she poses as a hooker for fun. Her problem in picking men is similar in some respects to Ellen Burstyn's in `Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore,' where she goes from an abusive husband to a similar guy in a different shell (Harvey Keitel) who appears charming at first but soon reveals his psychotic side. Burstyn skips town to avoid the guy, while Keaton, after having just gone through a lot of trouble trying to get rid of Gere, goes to a bar, picks up psycho-ex-convict-repressed-homosexual 'I'm-a pitcher-not-a catcher' Tom Berenger (who seems nice at first, but soon turns into a much more deranged version of Gere), and ends up making one mistake too many. Brooks shows her as a bit misguided but courageous and sympathetic (much like Scorsese does Burstyn), and also shows the tragedy that can result from the seemingly most trivial things when even the nicest of people rubs a psychotic, tortured individual the wrong way, because that person then becomes the symbol of everything in society that has made that psychotic suffer his or her whole life (Berenger's character as well as Gere's low-rent version of his later star-making role in `American Gigolo' are both different existentially empty characters, not literal 'God's lonely Man' types but with quite a few things in common with De Niro's Travis Bickle nevertheless, including, for Berenger, Bickle's bottled-up inner rage that is overdue to explode at any time in the catharsis of an ultraviolent impulsive act). What it all comes down to for Diane Keaton is this: she's too naive in thinking she can,---as Bob Hughes (the character portrayed by Matt Dillon in `Drugstore Cowboy) would say `buck the system and buck the dark forces that are hiding underneath the surface.'. That unifying statement of the Bob-Hughes-Matt-Dillon character regarding what happens to him at the end of `Drugstore Cowboy' applies directly to what happens to Diane Keaton at the end of this film. She's just beginning to recognize the dark forces and stay clear of them, when they engulf her and it's all over: another victim of society's ills..
How's Keaton's character trying to find herself? By finding herself a man that complements her sexually first-and-foremost, to compensate for her deprived and repressed past. The `Goodbar' or a man's ability to please sexually is the important factor. That's why she prefers a sexually confident ignoramus like the Richard Gere character `Tony' to William Atherton's repressed, moralistic liberal intellectual who's the flipside of the coin to her abusive father, an emotional yoke she doesn't need. What she finds out slowly and painfully and through many short-lived relationships is that she's the most 'normal' neurotic of any of the people she meets in bars and discos. They keep disappointing her and sooner or later, if she hadn't been killed off, she would've had to look elsewhere than the 'swinging' scene (where all things 'sexual' were to be had easily but with not much value).
From the opening montage of dramatic black and white photographs set to shifting songs which quickly change moods from disco to funk to a bizarre nauseating ballad sung by Thelma Houston, Brooks tries to make the film operate on many levels simultaneously. The shot that states the theme of the film right away, is the one of the lady with the cleavage and a Jesus on the cross hanging between her breasts: the conflicts and contradictions between traditional morality and the sudden emergence of a new looser morality because of the so-called 'sexual revolution' ; can they be reconciled without tragic consequences? Can the system be bucked without sabotage from the residual dark forces underneath (as Bob Hughes would say) , even if official, popular dogma and the mainstream culture has decided that it's safe to be on the side of the rebels? Is it not a bad sign when everyone fancies himself a rebel; when rebellion has become safe and fashionable? All these questions and many more are raised by this film in a way that something as shallow as `Saturday Night Fever' only managed in a couple of scenes. Richard Brooks, after all, in addition to directing `Blackboard Jungle' and `Elmer Gantry,' also directed maybe the most coldly horrifying and bleakly naturalistic of all naturalistic films `In Cold Blood,' in 1968. Here he's trying for a multifaceted transcendent existentialism which also operates as satire. Its acting style is slightly over-the-top on purpose to bring out the satirical elements, everything parodying itself as well as being serious simultaneously. Keaton is perfect for her role because she's naturally glad to be a bit goofy and awkward, intense, and slightly 'over the top,' and the other actors play up to her than she down to them. The mood of a single scene can change quickly from different levels of tragedy to different shades of comedy. A perfect example is the scene where Gere smacks Keaton around for insisting that he leave her apartment and Tuesday Weld runs to the rescue just as Gere is leaving. The mood is a bit sad, at first, as we see the bruise on Keaton's face (Weld asking her what happened? what did that s.o.b. do to you? etc.), a bruise she certainly did not deserve; but when Weld goes to get some ice to put on the bruise and instead gets a yellow popsicle we start smiling knowing what's coming next. She puts the popsicle to the bruise and Keaton utters a loud owww! When Weld gets a cloth from the sink to wipe Keaton's face, there are cockroaches all over it and they get on Keaton, making her jump around all over the place in hilarity trying to get them off her. The scene that started as semi-tragic is now farcical comedy in a way that's very touching and sympathetic.
One of the main things I don't like about the film are the incredibly cheap looking exterior pick-up shots done to connect the main scenes together. They look more obviously done on a studio backlot than a cheap TV show and lit so bright you can almost feel the presence of the whole film crew in the shot. Aside from that one minor annoyance, the rest of film is, in all its many whimsical aspects, quite transcendentally cinematic and valuable. It moves very quickly and there are no dead-spots. Diane Keaton's daring performance alone makes it a classic study of '70s female sexuality from a decidedly 'woman's angle.' But Brooks manages to take the film further and create a multifaceted work full of satirical elements worthy of Agnes Varda's `Cleo from 5 to 7,' and Martin Scorsese's `Alice Doesn't Live here Anymore."
A true departure role for Diane Keaton. This is perhaps her best
performance. All of the natural presence she conveyed in both "Annie Hall"
and "Manhattan" with added complexities. Her performance makes this film
worth watching. As does the star turn by a very young Richard Gere and a
surprisingly good performance from Tuesday Weld.
Sadly, much of the book's message is lost by Richard Brook's screenplay. Judith Rosner's classic novel dealt with the main character's inner-thoughts -- and this created a challenge which Brook's was unable to meet. Due to the poor translation the ending comes off as not only tragic, but homophobic.
Viewers should be warned that this is a brutal and graphic film which should be viewed by adults only. It also features one of the most disturbing endings ever put to celluloid.
Mr. Goodbar is a brilliant odyssey tracking the personal evolution of a
slightly mousy, yet viciously emergent young woman. Diane Keaton brings
such remarkable development to her character -- it's hard to believe this
movie was shot in the same chronological timeframe as Annie Hall.
Personally, I had no idea she was that versatile an actor.
The film stands alone from the book, which is a rare feat. If one can overlook the dated clothes, dated music, and ridiculous mid-70's hair, the story is still somehow relevant to this age as it was then -- a remarkable thing considering the standard of cheesey slapdash movies thrown together around the same era. The pacing and editing of Mr. Goodbar was years ahead of its time, and keeps the story moving along briskly, yet coherently, and inspires a sense of acute anticipation most effectively.
There are many memorable scenes and stills from this movie. (The opening montage of B&W stills over the choppily truncated soundtrack sets the mood perfectly.) One image that sticks in my mind is when Keaton has first moved into her own apartment and is sitting on her mattress on the warehouse floor, gazing about, a look of perfect contentedness as she soaks in her very own domain for the first time. We have all had that moment. And after a minute of this, she becomes restless and bored. This moment of boredom usually occurs after some months in 'real time', and I feel the scene summed up the first few months of her new apartment effectively and succinctly in a 20 second, wordless scene.
Realism is the film's strongest point, and as such, I found I was actually shocked and disturbed by an ending that I didn't foresee. Shocked and disturbed, and I consider myself a jaded moviegoer.
If you somehow missed this film in the last 25 years, now would be as good a time as ever to finally see it. I'll give it $$$$ out of 5 in the Money Shot scale>
I saw this movie back in 1977 and I hated it! Now, in 2000, I just saw it on TV and I really love it! Why? Because it represents really the seventies, when movie directors takes some chances. Richard Brooks was not a young man at that time, but he really captures some social and pyschological elements of America in the 1970's. The film is today a little bit dated, but have some sociological interest in it. It had a strong story, even if I hate the Catholic overstatement symbolism. But I think it's better than most of the 1990's conservative American movies. It's also a strong vehicule for Diane Keaton's great talent. She was, and still is a great actress. She simply illuminated this movie. And it's also fun to see young Richard Gere trying hard to be Al Pacino!
Who said that classic directors can't make any decent movies at the end of their career? Richard Brooks, famous for having directed the fabulous melodramas like Cat on a hot tin roof or the Dostjoveski's novel The Brothers Kazzmarov made a splendid movie about someone who is looking for sense in life. The someone is a teacher (Diane Keaton) who can't decide who she really wants to be...teaching deaf kids, playing whore at night, trying to make up a perfect relation with a psychotic professor she's in love with, pleasing her overacting dad... You name it but everything that society asks seems to fail terribly. Looking for Mr. Goodbar is the sort of American Gigolo with a Saturday Night Fever=feel. Brilliant 70's discomusic, an astonishing Diane Keaton (you soon will forget everything she was in Woody Allen-movies) and a quite surprising young Richard Gere. A real superb movie that needs to be seen.
A distaff variation on "La Dolce Vita", wherein a free-spirited, independent woman turns herself into a sexual plaything (it could only happen in the 1970s). However, this melodrama, from Judith Rossner's reedy-thin bestseller, wants to show us the downside of promiscuity more so than the highs of anonymous sex, and the film is built for tragedy. Waiting for that tragedy to arrive causes the penultimate sequences to have a queasy, sick undermining--it's like a bad trip. Diane Keaton is quite good as Theresa Dunn, a teacher of deaf children who lives on her own but is stifled emotionally by her dysfunctional, brawling family (and probably by the do-gooder nature of her job--though the film never gets into this). She lets off steam by cruising singles bars, yet writer-director Richard Brooks rarely allows her character to have any fun; he spikes the proceedings with flights-of-fancy, which lighten the load, yet only in Theresa's reality can we glean some actual substance. We learn little about what makes this character tick and, in the end, it's just a finger-wagging diatribe on the evils of reckless behavior. The added kick--that Theresa Dunn's need for punishment makes her the ultimate masochistic feminist--can be construed as either heady, provocative stuff or total b.s. ** from ****
Not really. I have heard that there are no prints of this Movie
although it is considered a classic. It is. Diane Keaton gives a
powerful performance as a gifted teacher who frequents seedy bars and
picks up men to one-night stands. Scary. Scarier is when she really
picks up the wrong one.
What a lot of people may miss in the movie is that Diane's character has a congenital medical condition (Scoliosis I believe) and does not want to marry a man and have a child with it. Pretty mild condition in my opinion to live your life this risky. She walks with what she thinks she pulls off as a little switch, but her untimely partner recognizes it as a mild limp because she did have surgery for it as a child.
Her array of men are somewhat handsome losers with Richard Gere, John Travolta and Tom Berenger. All I want to do is see it again and have it in my collection!
I saw this movie when it came out in the '70's. Living in Marin County,
we were all experimenting with our new freedom of sexuality, (Hot Tubs
included). This movie should have been a wakeup call. But naive as I
was, the night I saw the movie, my friend and I went to a local pub
afterwards. I met a handsome fellow and he invited me to his home
nearby, where he said he had a warm fire going. I told him of the movie
and made him swear he wasn't a Mr. Goodbar (in a joking, yet serious
way). But dummy me, I believed he was OK, and the man turned out to be
someone you'd rather not go home with. Nothing too drastic happened,
but I didn't go home with strangers again. I also became a "poster
child" or should I say the voice of reason regarding the fact that
"free love" was really not what we were looking for. Women are usually
looking to be loved, and although we now had choices, this choice was a
poor example of what we really needed.
Tonight my boyfriend and I were listening to Could It Be Magic by Barry Manilow, and I could picture the ending with that music playing and the lights flashing, and the rest of it which as you already know is unforgettable. So much so, that it's something I wouldn't want to see again. At my age now, it just might be a little too much for my heart to handle, LOL
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