Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pieces of Dreams (1970)

          Ordinary in every way, this drama explores the moral conflicts experienced by a priest who questions his faith. Specifically, young and handsome Father Gregory Lind (Robert Forster), who is assigned to a small neighborhood parish in Albuquerque, struggles with issues like the Vatican’s opposition to birth control, since a 15-year-old girl in his parish becomes pregnant and needs an abortion for medical reasons. Concurrently, Father Gregory meets Pamela Gibson (Lauren Hutton), a beautiful social worker, so temptations of the flesh compound his angst. Although the birth-control subplot is pointed and worthwhile, the romance storyline, which takes greater prominence, is predictable and trite.
          Nonetheless, Pieces of Dreams gets points for trying to tell its story in a grown-up sort of way. Father Gregory’s crisis is depicted methodically, with each step along his journey logically suggesting the next, and the revelation that his priesthood defines his relationship with his mother goes a long way toward individualizing the character. Furthermore, the subplot about Father Lind’s tense relationship with his immediate superior, Father Paul Schaeffer (Ivor Francis), provides a vivid glimpse into the everyday lives of priests. Schaeffer is a domineering, judgmental racist who expects the people around him to ignore his periodic lapses into alcoholic stupor—one can understand Father Gregory’s frustrated reactions.
          Unfortunately, for all its good intentions, Pieces of Dreams suffers from lifeless acting and writing. The screenplay’s tone is so matter-of-fact that very little dramatic heat is generated, and love story is woefully underdeveloped. Hutton, the former model appearing in only her second movie, mistakes intensity for acting, so she comes across as sullen instead of substantial. And Forster, who later became a wonderful character actor, is virtually catatonic: His performance is so restrained that everyone else around him, even the nonactors playing bit parts, is more interesting. His performance, and the movie as a whole, perk up slightly during a final exchange with a powerful bishop (Will Geer), but getting that far requires a great deal of patience on the viewer’s part. (Available as part of the MGM Limited Collection on

Pieces of Dreams: FUNKY

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