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USA 1977
Directed by
Richard Brooks
136 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Looking For Mr Goodbar

This much-anticipated zeitgeist film, portraying a sexually promiscuous young New York woman who comes to a sticky end, was universally panned, particularly for the contribution of screenwriter and director Brooks' cheapening of the original novel by Judith Rossner which was based on the real life murder of a 28-year-old New York City schoolteacher in 1973.  I haven’t read the novel but even so the deficiencies are apparent enough in the portrayal of Theresa (Diane Keaton). The way Brooks plays it she is simply a hedonist  with an indiscriminate appetite for men (with reason feminists condemned Brooks as having turned in an anti-female liberation tract) but what he fails to bring into play is Theresa’s self-destructiveness and masochism, qualities which make sense of her choices and which apparently are part of her character in Rossner’s novel .

Brooks gets off to a clumsy start with a mishandled fantasy sequence that might have been staged by Woody Allen then segues into televisual type melodrama to establish Theresa’s position as a typical put-upon young woman  for the period with an overbearing father and a self-satisfied married lover. Once she embarks on her discovery of self through adventures of the flesh, however, the film settles down it becomes an engaging portrait of a determined woman .

Much of this is thanks to the performance of Diane Keaton, who had just made a name for herself playing very prim characters in Annie Hall and The Godfather (there is a little wink to the latter early in the film).  She makes the character entirely convincing, caring, playful on the one hand and yet on the other with an unyielding refusal to let herself become emotionally dependent.  The film drags in places and could have either been shorter or given more time to exploring the motivations of the Theresa character but notwithstanding its shortcomings as an adaptation (we never, for instance, get to understand the significance of the title) or otherwise, Looking For Mr Goodbar has much to recommend it.  

FYI: The was a career-maker for Richard Gere in only his second feature film




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