The Last Picture Show Film Details
Overview: In 1951, a group of high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied North Texas town that is slowly dying, both culturally and economically.
Tagline: Anarene, Texas, 1951. Nothing much has changed…
Review: Peter Bogdanovich’s signature film, The Last Picture Show, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for directing, encompasses many different themes prevalent in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The film touches on many different subjects, such as the youth counterculture and friendship. The film follows the residents in the fictional small town of Anarene, Texas in the early 1950s. The main action revolves around Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and his best friend, Duane (Jeff Bridges). Right from the beginning of the film we realize that the town is small and there is no a lot to do. The kids hang out at the local pool hall ran by an enigmatic man called Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) and the local theater, which is also owned by Sam. We find out that Sonny, Duane, and their classmates are getting ready to graduate soon and each kid is having trouble deciding what they want to do after school. Duane goes out with the most popular girl in school, Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd), who enjoys the popularity she receives considerably. Things begin to change in the town for all the kids in town. The coach of the basketball team asks Sonny if he could drive his wife to the doctor’s office. We see Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman) as a very unhappy woman. Sonny notices this also and the two begin an affair. Meanwhile, Jacy tries to find a man to whom she can lose her virginity. It is apparent that she really does not want to be with Duane anymore after she ditches him on Christmas in order to go to a skinny-dipping party at another guy’s house. All the characters, one way or another, want something more than what they have. Sonny wants a relationship, which he gets with Mrs. Popper, Duane wants his relationship with Jacy to last, and Jacy wants always to be the center of attention. The older characters in the story, Sam, the waitress at the local diner, Genevieve (Eileen Brennan), and Jacy’s mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn), reminisce about how things used to be when they were younger and how much things have changed since then. Sonny’s world is turned upside down when he learns that Sam has died. The boys always thought Sam to be a kind of mentor. Sam leaves his pool hall to Sonny, who continues to run it. After Duane leaves town, Sonny decides to break off his relationship with Mrs. Popper for a relationship with Jacy. Sonny even gets in a fight over Jacy with Duane when Duane returns. This results in Sonny being injured. Sonny even marries Jacy when she asks him. The marriage does not last long though and we soon find out that Jacy only married Sonny to get attention. In the end, Jacy leaves to go to college, Duane decides to go into the service to fight in Korea, and the last local business, the movie theater, shuts down. Duane, Sonny, and their friend Billy (Sam Bottoms) watch the very last showing of the very last movie shown at the theater, Red River (1948), a John Wayne Western. At the end of the film, Billy is killed when a truck hits him. Billy was a deaf mute, which is why he never heard the truck coming. Sonny is very distraught because everyone around him has either left, like Duane and Jacy, or died, like Sam and Billy. Sonny gets in his truck and drives away from town. It seems as though he might leave but then he turns around and drives back to town. He goes to see Mrs. Popper, who seems to be the only constant in Sonny’s life. First, she rejects him, but eventually decides to forgive him and comfort him. This film seems to have all the themes of the movies of the time. It has the rebellious counterculture theme that was so prevalent in films such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Easy Rider (1969). It also contains the affair theme also found in The Graduate (1967) by showing Sonny’s affair with Mrs. Popper. It has the theme of friendship also found in Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy (1969). The film also contains the theme of alienation, which pertains to all the aforementioned films. In the end, Sonny is left alone. The only person he has left is Mrs. Popper and his relationship with her is not stable nor is it moral. The Last Picture Show is a film about changes and how people react to those changes. The town changes so much throughout the movie as do the characters. Sonny does not react to change well at all. He seems very devastated when Sam dies, and he is even more devastated when Billy dies. He does not want Duane to leave and he even marries Jacy in order to keep something constant in his life. The only thing that seems constant to Sonny is his relationship with Mrs. Popper. When things get bad, he goes to her. The film is also about the death of the old west. The last film at the theater shown is a John Wayne western, which signals the end of that fictitious and glorified way of life. The film also deals a lot with nostalgia. Most of the characters have feelings of nostalgia. Duane wanted to keep Jacy and marry her, Jacy wanted to stay the center of attention, and Sam wanted to be young again. All of these characters come to terms with the changes occurring in their life while Sonny does not. When he gets scared, he runs to Mrs. Popper for comfort. The film is very interesting and well worth watching. It has interesting and unique characters, which the actors portray well. Just as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change.” This quote seems to describe the central issues in The Last Picture Show to a tee.
Duration: 118 min
Genre: Drama, Romance
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