Rabbit, Run (1970) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Harry and Janice Angstrom of Reading, Pennsylvania, have a young adolescent son, Nelson Angstrom. An artificial stone siding salesman, Harry is still most defined as a star basketball player from his high school days, then when he was nicknamed Rabbit. On a Friday evening, Harry, based on events earlier in the day that made him quit smoking cold turkey to be a better person, decides, also on the spur of the moment, to abandon his job and the family, alcoholic Janice who he only married because she was pregnant with Nelson and who in turn doesn't seem to care about him or Nelson, except for the support she requires from him to survive. Him leaving is despite Janice being pregnant. With no plans, he hops in the car with nothing more than the clothes on his back. In the short term, he decides he wants to stay with a friend of a friend he meets the following night, Ruth Leonard, a party girl. What happens in the intervening months is that life around him still dictates what he does, his attempts to foster some semblance of what he considers a normal, a loving relationship even on the first night with Ruth still only him reacting to life around him. Harry still knows about what is going on with the family as Janice's family's pastor, Reverend Jack Eccles, enters his life, his end goal to get Harry to return to Janice on his own want. Through it all, Harry may or may not ultimately find what he's looking for for himself.

  • A crude man is stuck in a loveless marriage. One day he decides to run away from his life and family. First he finds a mistress, but just because a man runs away from one disappointment, doesn't mean he won't run into another one.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film is a fairly literal adaptation of the acclaimed 1960 novel by John Updike (which Updike later followed with three sequels and a novella). Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom (James Caan) comes home one day from his sad, dead-end job to his sad, cramped apartment to find his sad, pregnant wife Janice (Carrie Snodgrass) asleep, splayed in front of the TV, highball glass in hand. After only a moment's contemplation, he decides to leave. Snatching up his coat and car keys, he's off and running, taking the viewer on a rambling, aimless journey.

    Set in the early 60's in a suburb of Brewer, Pa - a mid-sized, working class, weary-looking town (think Scranton), the film shows some glimpses of Updike's keen sense of place and time - the songs that play on the radio during Harry's all-night drive to Virginia, the hippie-like outfits and sexual rebelliousness of Harry's sister, the once solid row-houses and factories in Brewer hinting at the urban unrest and decay that is to come. This is Harry's hometown, where in high school he was a celebrated basketball star, but now, at 26, is bewildered that the folks in Brewer seem to have forgotten that. Because Harry can't shake the belief that he is still a star, special, meant for better things, and, because he is beset with a child-like narcissism, that everyone else must see that too.

    After leaving his wife, Harry goes to visit his old basketball coach who introduces him to Ruth Leonard, a sometime prostitute, who he immediately moves in with. When Janice goes into labor a few months later, he leaves Ruth, eventually returning to the apartment with Janice, their 2-year-old son Nelson, and new baby daughter Becky, and taking a job working for his father-in-law selling used cars. But Harry's restlessness still dogs him and domestic harmony does not ensue.

    Harry is remorselessly ruled by his impulses, but is troubled and perplexed by how he seems to disappoint nearly everyone in his life: Ruth, the minister sent to lead him back to his family, his parents, his in-laws, his wife and son, even the minister's wife. So he runs. But actions have consequences, a fact lost on Harry even when his lead to tragedy.

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