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I knew Roger and Virginia when I was a young girl. Roger volunteered at my school. Although a lot of kids made fun of him, I liked him very much. He was nice, and like another kid to me. My friend and I used to play at Roger and Virginia's house. He had a play room that was any kids dream and they always served Twinkies. I moved away later in life and I think about them every now and then and wonder what became of them. Especially when Lifetime or Oxygen plays the movie. I've told my daughter stories about them when it related to our conversations. She wondered what they looked like, so I told her how the real Roger and Virginia have a cameo in the film. I just did a search to find it for her and was saddened by the comments I just came across. I understand that it is a movie and therefore will receive criticism. But let's not forget that they are real people too. The comment regarding the actors performance was especially insulting towards the couple they portrayed. They actually did a pretty great job. That's how they talk. Virginia really calls him "WahJah". She has speech problems that cause her words to sound a little nasally. They walk funny and they talk funny and they are better people than most. I won't sit here all day and beat you guys over the head. I just wanted you to know that sometimes your comments may hurt people and that in the future if you're commenting on a true story that maybe you could just be more careful with the words you choose.
Cassidy and Purl give credible, moving performances as a slightly retarded young couple who fall in love and want to get married--to be "like normal people". Unfortunately, their parents and their friends don't believe they have the ability to do so. Thus the story moves along their struggles to overcome a system which seeks to suppress those "outside the norm"; in a more profound sense, it is a realistic, gritty look at what obstacles true love can overcome. An extremely difficult, challenging role for each to play effectively; but how magnificently they rose to that challenge. It is certainly worth the time to view this film--like rare flowers, the fragrance remains long after the blossoms are gone.
I remember clearly seeing this film on Friday, April 13, 1979. I was
trying to finish up the spring semester at college, and originally
turned on the TV as background sound. But then it got and held my
attention and really sucked me into the storyline and this young
couple's fight to be "like normal people". This movie is apparently
based on a true story of a mentally challenged couple that fought and
won the right to marry. There was a movie with a similar story line
that had aired just a few weeks before starring Richard Thomas and
The film shows the life of mentally challenged Roger Meyers (Shaun Cassidy) from his infancy up to the point that he marries Virginia (Linda Purl). It shows how the entire family is effected by Roger's handicap and the depression he is thrown into after being accused by a local cop for sending an obscenity-laced letter to a teenage girl, all because Roger sent her a valentine plus the fact that the mentally disabled were often considered sex fiends in those days. It turns out that a "normal" boy from school actually sent the letter.
Roger's mood improves when his parents decide to send him to an institution that believes in normalizing the mentally challenged, not warehousing them. In particular his mood improves because he meets Virginia. Their mutual crush is considered somewhat endearing until it turns to love and they talk of marriage.
What is the worst of the 70's I was talking about? Mainly it has to do with the attitude towards the mentally challenged and sex - that people believed that they are either asexual or over-sexed with no middle ground and that regardless of the cause of the retardation, they must not be allowed to reproduce. (Roger and Virginia did not have congenital retardation).
What was the best of the 70's that I saw here? That middle class people such as Roger's family could effectively deal with Roger and his needs without going broke, that the state actually offered some meaningful financial help to such families back then, and that in 1979 if Roger and Virginia had been of average IQ that they would have been able to marry and live modestly with modest jobs - not shackled with six figures of student debt and a mandatory college education in order to have that same modest lifestyle today.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of my favourite true movies. It's one that I haven't seen in a few years but it left a strong impression on me, and I remember it very well. It's quaint, but it's a strong and effective little drama, and it's such a shame it is almost forgotten. I thought the performances of both Shaun Cassidy and Linda Purl were really good, even if perhaps it was coming across more like they were just playing dumb rather than seeming to be genuinely mentally handicapped. Cassidy as "Roger" may have been mildly slow, but that didn't affect the character's conscience or his feelings about how people regard him. It's shown over the course of the story how he has to overcome torments, obstacles, and eventually the film's main focus becomes he and his love Virginia's fight for their basic entitlement to be together. There are many touching scenes, like one where Roger convinces Virginia to face her fear of swimming, and another where he makes a little moral stand against a prudish woman at the care centre where they live who forbids the couple from kissing. Whoa, regular human behaviour! How dare they! Roger utters the film's title in that part.. I love when movies do that! I also like the part where the black owner of the restaurant where Roger works explains that he gave him a shot at a job because he knows how it feels to be held back by the man! And I must admit, I can't help but chuckle at the two of them at points, I mean you can't not really. She frequently goes more than a little overboard with it and sounds ridiculous, and his buck teeth and overly-deep voice do make him seem awfully silly a lot. Yes I laugh, in fact it's a lot of fun with this movie to laugh at the way its two leads talk, but there's no malice to it. I still care and feel for the characters. And the only "camp" thing about it would have to be the horribly 70's style and tone and pasty look of the picture. But it's still very effectively gets its main point across despite that. Films like this just aren't seen these days, as some of the acting would likely be seen as all insensitive and politically incorrect. The word retarded is casually bandied about a lot, which is kinda weird when you realise it was just a word back then. And why should that matter anyway? I don't think mere words are the problem, but rather the nasty attitudes and prejudices of the bad types you see in this. I think it's very honest and respectful to what life can be like for the mentally disabled, and I appreciate how it doesn't shy away from showing how cruel people can be to them. The film's final scene just sorta fizzles out and it ends on a weak note but it's okay, it doesn't hurt the overall experience. It ain't perfect, and it certainly has its share of cheesy moments, but I've always just found it to be an involving and very uplifting story that leaves you with a hopeful feeling. It has a lot of heart and a valid point to make. One of them no doubt being that special people have the same basic human needs as anyone, such as the desire to love and be loved. These people need kindness and understanding, not jibes and attacks from ignorant-minded shits who are only out to hurt them. The most 'normal' people like you or I could take something from the trials of unfortunate individuals like in this picture. Just maybe this and other films and documentaries with similar themes will encourage some to look further into how they see and act toward those who are unable to have that which most of us take for granted, and who may not be quite as blessed as themselves.
My girlfriend and i watched this movie for the first time the other day and actually laughed at the acting in it. I have never seen such bad acting, i know this was never made to be a Hollywood blockbuster but "Waa-Jah" was just a joke. How did they ever get the budget to make this film? After getting over the initial laughter of the acting we realised that the way the actors were playing these characters was actually quite insulting. There is a very fine line when playing someone with any kind of disability, it is either very good i.e Sean Penn in "I am Sam", or what we have here in this movie which amounts to playing the character more like a playground taunt rather than with any thought or feeling.
I enjoy high camp and this is the holy grail of T.V. camp. While this was made to be sensitive tale of two people in love in a time when love for them was not allowed, it is nothing more than a send up of people with disabilities. I laughed out loud when this thing first aired. In fact everyone I knew laughed out loud. The only film I can think of that has more unintentional funny dialog is the English dubbed version of Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. The enjoyable aspect is you get to see some great location shots in Los Angeles. When was the last time you saw Love's Ribs on Pico? (BTW that was a real lazy location FOX! What was it... Two blocks from the front gate?) There is nothing kind or touching in this film. A contemporary viewer would would laugh non-stop until the bitter predictable preachy end. This is dark comedy at its finest. Come on Zalman King playing someone who cares? No way! It gets a ten in my book for being a constant source of jokes.
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