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USA 1971
Directed by
Milos Forman
92 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Taking Off

Synopsis: A middle-American couple who believe that their teenage daughter has run away discover that the times they are a-changin'.

That Milos Forman’s first American film won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes (it tied with Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun) and was nominated for six BAFTAs shows how much film evaluation is a thing of its time for Taking Off is a rough-and-ready affair that is at times very amusing in its self-aware spoofing of the contemporary generation gap but which fades in wit in its latter stages

Buck Henry, actor and screenwriter (his best known credit is the Zeitgeist icon, The Graduate, 1967) plays Larry Tyne, a middle-aged salaryman whose daughter, Jeannie (Linnea Heacock) appears to have run away from home and who is being urged by his wife, Lynn (Lynn Carlin), to look for her.  As the couple explore the unknown world of youth culture (including an Ike and Tina Turner concert and an introduction to marijuana and its argot by a pot-head played by Vincent Schiavelli) they gradually and literally get turned on to the message of “let it all hang out”.

The first half of the film is a lot of fun, very much in the spirit of Forman’s Czech films like The Fireman’s Ball as it satirizes the one hand the square older generation and their complete lack of connection with their children, and on the other, the “self-actualization” ideals of the younger generation, the latter mainly seen in a lengthy audition sequence in which a lot of young women (including briefly Cary Simon and Kathy Bates, then calling herself Bobo Bates) sing folksy songs. In the latter stages when Larry and Lynn get involved with a society of parents with missing children and end up playing strip poker it tends to lose steam, returning when in the final scene when Jeannie bring home a hirsute hippie.

The production values are relatively minimal but Forman has wrought an entertaining little film out of his material and if dated in content it remains a nice time capsule for anyone fond of the era.





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