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  Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker, The Who Needs Responsibilities?
Year: 1970
Director: John Dexter
Stars: Jordan Christopher, Jill O'Hara, Robert Walden, Kate Reid, William Redfield, Lois Nettleton, Boni Enten, Elaine Stritch, Melba Moore, Riggs O'Hara, Kristofer Tabori, Donald Warfield, Jean Shevlin, Matt Warner, Pat Ast, David Doyle, Sylvester Stallone
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jonathan (Jordan Christopher) has just graduated from a prestigious college, but suddenly realises he doesn't have any great yearning to do anything with his new qualifications. In fact, he doesn't feel any need to do anything very much, and instead of accepting a job that would make full use of his newly acquired knowledge he signs up for work as a taxi driver, wandering the New York City streets in his cab, silently putting up with the passengers who wish to air their views on the world as all the while all sorts of insults pass through his mind. He is not above leaving his cab in the road if there is a traffic jam cluttered enough, either, but what will he do about his future? Anything?

Seems like the answer to that was no in a film that sort of answered The Graduate, and sort of anticipated Five Easy Pieces, yet was nowhere near as good as either of them. Also known simply as Pigeons to strip back that unwieldy title, this was not so much the tale of a college dropout, as Jonathan had already completed his studies and done very well, but more about the power of refusal, here refusing to play the conventions and go ahead and join the rat race as society expects him to do. His parents would be happy to see him do so as well, but like a good little middle-class boy, he is rebelling against them as well in his ant-infested apartment he shares with a roommate.

Said roommate being Winslow, a 1970-era sidekick name if ever there was one, played by Robert Walden, who complains to Jonathan about his virginal status as if his pal can do anything about it - though he does invite him to a party where single women are supposed to abound, it turns out to be mostly homosexual men who attend, along with their female hangers-on (party guests include Elaine Stritch, singer Melba Moore and, er, an uncredited Sylvester Stallone). Nevertheless, Jonathan at least finds someone who wants to have sex with him, but opts to leave her in the lurch, even after she has taken all her clothes off and reclined with a come-hither expression, not good enough for him.

This stubbornness proved to be the overarching theme of the plot, which in a time when the younger generation were seriously considering whether the world their parents had grown up and grown old in was something they wished to have any part in, and the answer was veering towards a resounding negative. If this sounds to you that Jonathan needed a short spell in the Army to sort himself out, that was an option as the Vietnam conflict was still raging worse than ever when this was filmed, and there is one middle-aged lady who demands to know why he isn't over there, but even that is a choice he is more than content to turn down (what would have happened had he been drafted in the first ten minutes is a whole different scenario). Over and over, our inactive hero turns his nose up at any form of planning ahead.

He is not a complete automaton, however (if he was he could have landed a job on an assembly line, one supposes), and falls in love almost accidentally, and certainly against his wishes, with the woman who lives in the apartment below and has recently moved in. She is Jennifer (stage actress Jill O'Hara in her only film) and she makes the first move, telling him she does not want commitment which is ideal for him to commit to, and gradually he finds himself growing very affectionate about her, if not precisely towards her. This makes her ultimate actions more of a betrayal than he really should have anticipated it to feel for him and serves to illustrate if you emotionally invest in something it will be to your detriment. Naturally, being in the presence of this young man is more of a chore than you imagine the filmmakers intended since he was not particularly sympathetic as a waster, and the meandering script needed a stronger backbone to be insightful, never mind satisfying. But as a social relic, there was interest.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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