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Classic of the Week: The Last Picture Show (1971)


The Last Picture Show is a 1971 American drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry.

The film is set in a small town in Northern Texas Fromm November 1951 to October 1952 and is the coming of age of Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and his friend Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges). The cast also includes Cloris Leachman, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson, Eileen Brennan and Randy Quaid.

The film follows Sonny Crawford and his friend Duane Jackson, high school seniors in Anarene, Texas, a small town that is declining in the northern part of the state. Duane is dating Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd), the prettiest girl in town. Sonny breaks up with his girlfriend Charlene Duggs (Sharon Taggart).

At Christmas time Sonny begins an affair with Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), who is lonely because her husband is a closeted homosexual. At the Christmas dance Jacy is invited to a nude indoor pool party by Lester Marlow (Quaid) at the home of Bobby Sheen, a wealthy young man who seems like he would be a better boyfriend than Duane. Bobby tells Jacy his isn’t interested in virgins and will come back after she’s had sex.

The young guys take their mentally challenged friend, Billy (Sam Bottoms) to a prostitute to lose his virginity, but she slaps him when he ejaculates prematurely. When Duane and Sonny take Billy home, Sam “the Lion” tells them they can’t take care of their friend and bans the men from the pool hall, movie theater and the cafe.

During the weekend of New Year’s Eve, Sonny and Duane go on a weekend trip to Mexico. Later in the film, Jacy and Bobby elope in Oklahoma, but are stopped by an Oklahoma State trooper, who calls their parents and the two are forced to get an annulment.

This film is not the most exciting one, but the acting is superb from all the main cast. It is a very serious film with no humor whatsoever. It is filled with teenagers riding around getting into trouble, kissing, cheating, nudity and sex. It has tragedy as well. Many sad and unfortunate things happen throughout. It is filmed in black and white to resemble a 1950’s era film. Hank Williams Sr. songs are played a good bit too.

This film is very adult. Many characters make out, have sex and are shown completely nude. This was a controversial film at the time of release, many places throughout the U.S. banned it, some places unbanned it eventually. It was banned in many countries as well. Despite that, it was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Pic and it has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Even though this film is for mature audiences only, isn’t exciting and a bit slow at times, it is still superbly done. Sure the Hank Williams music gets old and lyrically doesn’t fit the scenes, but it is still a great movie about troublesome teens and a small town on the decline, where everything eventually starts closing down and the theater owner decides to show one more show.

Every single character in this movie goes through tragedies, there isn’t much happiness and is down right depressing at times, but that doesn’t make it bad at all. It is a great film, a work of originality, that still shocks and makes you cry to this day. It isn’t one that normally can be watched over and over. It is an important film that everyone needs to watch at least once in their lives. Although slow, this movie is wonderfully done from beginning to end. 18+ 4.5/5

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