Thursday, September 27, 2012

Making It (1971)

          When the lyrics of a movie’s opening theme proclaim, “Everybody’s busy learning yesterday, but I’m into tomorrow—that’s a better way,” you know you’re in for a dated Generation Gap story about a hip kid showing uptight adults what it’s all about, man. And while many movies of this stripe are unwatchable today, thanks to arrogant leading characters and pretentious themes, Making It is more worthwhile than its lurid title might suggest. The hero of the piece is Phil (Kristoffer Tabori), a high-school schemer who’s juggling sexual affairs with Debbie (Sherry Miles), a dim-bulb classmate, and Yvonne (Marlyn Mason), the horny wife of his gym coach. Meanwhile, Phil’s mom, Betty (Joyce Van Patten), is a lonely divorcée looking to start over with bland but reliable businessman Warren (Dick Van Patten), who happens to be married to another woman. The depiction of Phil’s home life explains why he finds monogamy overrated, but as the story progresses, Phil discovers the consequences of cocksmanship—he gets Debbie pregnant, runs into a hassle with Yvonne’s husband, and so on.
          Until his comeuppance, Phil is a self-aware operator who talks the talk of a disaffected ’70s rebel in order to court older women (sample pickup line: “That’s where it’s at, being honest with each other”). Yet the filmmakers ensure that we can always see the naïve young man beneath the swaggering façade. All of this may sound rather ordinary, and, indeed, Making It is a minor film in every way. However, the picture’s acting, direction, and writing are so smooth that Making It ends up exemplifying the entire post-Graduate genre. More importantly, the film follows its storyline to a logical conclusion instead of merely stirring up unresolved ambiguity.
          Tabori, the son of B-movie director Don Siegel, is strong in the leading role, effectively blending innocence with sass, and the supporting players are solid—the cast also includes Bob Balaban, as Phil’s snide crony, and David Doyle, as an exasperated administrator. Prolific character actor Lawrence Pressman is especially good as a teacher who sarcastically challenges Phil’s vision of kids leading the charge for social change: “I propose a new flag,” the teacher says at one point, “no stars, just acne.” A little much, sure, but it gets the point across. Interestingly, the film’s screenplay was penned by then-studio executive Peter Bart, who later gained fame as the editor-in-chief of Variety and as the host of various TV shows about showbiz. Nice to know he made a respectable effort during his brief tenure in the trenches of Hollywood’s creative scene.

Making It: GROOVY

1 comment:

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