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  Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty Brick Lost Bag Blues Long Distance LoveBuy this film here.
Year: 1972
Director: Paul Williams
Stars: Robert F. Lyons, Barbara Hershey, John Lithgow, Joy Bang, Ellen Barber, Charles Durning, Demond Wilson, Paul Sorvino, Buzzy Linhart, Gene Borkan, Herbert Kerr, Victor Argo, Tom Harvey, Victor Junquera, Hector Elias
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Peter (Robert F. Lyons) is a student at Cambridge in the U.S., muddling through lectures when he would rather be listening to music on his headphones or fooling around with his girlfriend Annie (Ellen Barber). But she is growing more exasperated with him and his lack of gumption, and he finds a way to escape from all this pressure by accepting an offer from his marijuana dealing friend John (John Lithgow) to travel to Berkeley and fetch some merchandise for him...

Dealing was a movie with some interesting people involved, not least the director Paul Williams, who was not the small blond songwriting Paul Williams, but the tall, counterculture moviemaking one, who had already made a couple of hip but not exactly high profile works in that vein before this example. Also intriguing was that the source he was drawing from was a novel written by Michael Crichton, not then the name he would soon become in the publishing and screen blockbuster worlds, which was a collaboration with his brother Douglas Crichton.

Hence the credit at the start telling us the book was penned by "Michael Douglas", another confusing aspect if you thought the Fatal Attraction star had turned his hand to writing before he had made it big as a celebrity. But this played more as if Williams had been influenced by the French New Wave, certainly in the opening stages, as Peter could easily be Jean-Pierre Léaud as he tried to find an anchor in this crazy world. He does discover someone who truly understands him, or as far as we can tell he does if "I really dig you" counts as an expression of deep affection from the object of his desire.

She is Susan, played by Barbara Hershey in the full-on hippie chick incarnation which made her such a cult favourite with men of a certain age, and yes, she does take her clothes off which simply added to the appeal. It appeals to Peter anyway, and soon he is pining for her as he gets back to Cambridge having successfully completed his mission and brought the louche but capitalistically-minded John his latest business transaction. As Peter finds a purpose in life - that is, to get together with Susan even though she's miles away - the story gathers a focus and momentum that takes it to an unexpected direction.

What happens is that Peter, who spends his quality time listening to children's records and refusing to go to parties now he's even more dejected, hits upon an idea to get Susan away from sunny California up to the snowy, slushy north and into his arms - she can bring John more pot, all wrapped up in bricks and hidden away in her luggage. Unfortunately he sends her too much money, she can't take so much drugs on the plane as hand luggage, and the case gets "lost" in transit. To make matters worse, Susan is arrested and suddenly we're in a thriller as Peter stages a rescue attempt which gets him mixed up with hard drugs dealers and corrupt cops, one of them Charles Durning in an early role. This change of pace does have it looking like two halves of two different films stuck together, but Williams smooths over the cracks for a fairly absorbing, but more conventional than you might have expected effort. Music by Michael Small.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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