A rich but lonely woman, Frances Austen, one day invites a homeless young man from a nearby park to her apartment and offers to let him live there. However, she has no intention of ever letting him leave again.
Robert Altman's sadly neglected film that, along with his later "Images", fits into the unconventional psycho-thriller mold. A bizarre story with Sandy Dennis as a spinster who takes in a handsome young man (Michael Burns) who is pretending to be mute. She imprisons the boy and supplies his every need, including a prostitute (Luana Anders), whom she goes out and brings home for Burns' pleasure.Written by
Jack Nicholson was very keen on playing the role of 'the boy'. He even discussed it with Robert Altman in his office. But Altman turned him down: "Jack, I think you're just too old." See more »
I'm not going to get under the covers or anything. I'll just lay on top. I have to tell you something. If you feel that you want to make love to me, it's all right. I want you to make love to me. Please.
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The 113-minutes amounts to a slow moving, yet fascinating, study in perverse character. Frances (Dennis) is a rich girl living a lonely repressed life in a ritzy Vancouver apartment. Then one rainy day she spots a young man (Burns) sitting alone in a park across from her rooms. Clearly, he's soaked and suffering, unprotected from the rain, while gazing across at him from her comfy apartment, she's suffering from a cloistered life amongst a suffocating elite. Sensing a bond, she takes him in and comforts him though strangely he never says a word to her. Nonetheless, it seems he's a handsome mute presence that breaks her internal solitude. But how can she keep him there since she's too repressed to express emotion other than acting kindly. At the same time, underneath it all, she secretly yearns for sex, yet in her repressed state can't manage the emotional lead-up. Thus, caught between a rock and a hard place, she locks him in the apartment, while plotting to overcome her frozen lead-up to intimacy.
All in all, Dennis manages a single inscrutable expression throughout, a genuine novelty but true to her character's mental state. Of course, we wonder what's going on with Frances, and at the same time, we wonder about Burns's strangely mute boy. It's this curiosity, I believe, that carries viewers over the flatter spots that stretch out the run-time. I hate to say so but it seems director Altman over-indulges a penchant for dressing and undressing his characters as well as other bits of marginal business. But then, to the delight of most audiences, it is 1968 and decades of censorship are breaking down. In short, the forbidden is no longer forbidden, and Altman joins the crowd, perhaps to a fault.
Too bad the narrative's otherwise pointless moments disrupt rather than intensify the underlying character puzzle. All in all, the result amounts to an over-stretched thriller. But one that still manages to fascinate thanks to an odd premise embodied by the quirky Sandy Dennis.
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