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  T.R. Baskin The Only Living Girl In Chicago
Year: 1971
Director: Herbert Ross
Stars: Candice Bergen, Peter Boyle, James Caan, Marcia Rodd, Erin O'Reilly, Jane Alderman, Joyce Mandel, Fawne Harriman, Hope Hommersand, Marrian Walters, Howard Platt
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jack Mitchell (Peter Boyle) is on a bus during a business trip to Chicago when he spots an old friend from college on the street, so hops off and catches the attention of Larry (James Caan), who at first does not recognise him. Jack persuades him to join him for a drink, and they get to talking about the good old days and what they're doing now, until Jack gets down to brass tacks: does Larry know of any girls he can get together with while he's in town? He does, and gives him the number of T.R. Baskin (Candice Bergen), who agrees to meet him in a hotel room - but it does not go the way Jack expects...

In the earlier stages of her career, Candice Bergen wasn't thought of as a particularly skilled actress, in fact the consensus was that she was getting by on her good looks and critics used to delight in taking her down in their reviews. However, not many of them gave enough credit to this, where she genuinely proved she was talented as the young woman arriving in Chicago after escaping a dead end existence in smalltown Ohio, only to discover that the independent life is not all it's cracked up to be, in fact it's pretty frustrating and miserable.

Bergen perfectly captures the personality of someone you can recognise would not have been on the same wavelength as those back home, and is not on the same wavelength as these big city folk either. Scripted by producer Peter Hyams, soon to be a director in his own right, the action moves back and forth through time from the awkward meeting with Jack to the story of her time in the city from around the point she arrived there. The liason with the businessman does not go the way he planned, and instead of sex they end up having a long, serious conversation about where life has brought them and how it has disappointed them.

There would be much of the actors' workshop about this if it weren't for the keen sense of humour T.R. displays, making off the cuff quips and observations that she knows will be lost on those with her, but cannot help herself doing it. As we see in the flashbacks, her new existence is a series of bad connections, from getting an apartment - she decides to rent a dingy one rather than share a better place with a ditz - to her soul-destroying job as a typist. She seems to have made a friend there in Dayle (Marcia Rodd), but she turns out to be a gossipy flibbertigibbet only interested in marrying someone with a hefty bank account.

So there's no one who T.R. really has an attachment to, and you begin to feel for this intelligent woman who cannot see any way out of her despair. There's the chance of male companionship when she meets Larry, but after one great night that gets her hopes up, he offers her money the next morning because he thought she was a prostitute. They certainly lay the misery on a bit thick in this film, but Bergen's appealing, sardonic performance has you understanding T.R. and why she fails to ever fit in. There's a heartbreaking scene late on where she calls her parents to apologise for walking out on them, but this simply shows all too clearly why she cannot return. Her fate is left up in the air, so we never do find out how she copes, but this is poignant and funny enough for you to hope she can succeed somehow, even if past evidence doesn't exactly look promising. Music by Jack Elliott.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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