Desperate Characters

Watch Desperate Characters

  • R
  • 1971
  • 1 hr 27 min
  • 6.2  (341)

Desperate Characters is a drama film from 1971, directed by Frank D. Gilroy and stars Shirley MacLaine, Kenneth Mars, and Sada Thompson in lead roles. After years of marriage, Sophie (Shirley MacLaine) and Otto Bentwood (Kenneth Mars) find themselves in a rut, feeling disconnected from each other and desperately trying to find purpose in their lives. The film is based on a novel by Paula Fox.

Set in Brooklyn in the late 1960s, Desperate Characters paints a bleak picture of a couple grappling with their own mortality, existential angst, and the disintegration of their relationship. The film explores themes of alienation, urban decay, and the loss of identity. It's a snapshot of a time when the promise of the American dream was fading fast, and disillusionment was setting in.

The film's melancholic tone is established from the opening credits, scored to a wistful piano theme. As the film begins, we see Sophie and Otto having dinner at a local restaurant with their friends Charlie (Adam Arkin) and Joanna (Anne De Salvo). The conversation is stilted, and we sense the tension simmering just below the surface. Charlie and Joanna are young and carefree, while Sophie and Otto are clearly feeling the weight of their years.

The couple returns home to their brownstone, where they discover that their garbage has been strewn all over the street by local kids. This ignites a fuse that will eventually lead to a series of escalating conflicts, culminating in a violent encounter that serves as the film's climax. Throughout the film, we see Sophie and Otto grappling with their fear of the world around them, as they slowly discover that their comfortable existence is nothing more than an illusion.

The film's central performances are all excellent. Shirley MacLaine brings a raw vulnerability to her portrayal of Sophie, a woman who has lost touch with herself and is struggling to find meaning in her life. Kenneth Mars is equally impressive as Otto, a man who is driven to the brink of madness by his own insecurities and fears. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, and their scenes together are some of the film's most affecting.

Sada Thompson rounds out the cast as Sophie's closest friend, Claire. Thompson brings a steely resilience to the role, serving as a counterpoint to Sophie's fragility. As the film progresses, we see Claire struggling with her own sense of despair and isolation. She feels trapped in her own life, just as Sophie and Otto do.

Desperate Characters is a film that doesn't offer easy answers or tidy resolutions. It's a snapshot of a moment in time, a deeply felt meditation on the human condition. The film's ending is both ambiguous and ambiguous, leaving us to ponder the fate of its characters long after the credits have rolled.

The film's cinematography is also worth mentioning. Gilroy and his cinematographer, John Alonzo, use the brownstone setting to great effect, capturing the desolation and decay of the urban environment. The camera often gazes through windows, highlighting the separateness of the characters from each other and the world around them. The film's visual style is reminiscent of the work of Ingmar Bergman, with its somber tone and austere compositions.

Desperate Characters is not a film for everyone. Its slow pace and heavy themes will be a turn-off for some viewers. However, for those who are willing to engage with it, the film offers a profound and deeply affecting portrait of a couple struggling to find meaning and purpose in their lives. It's a film that demands your attention, but one that ultimately rewards it.

Desperate Characters is a 1971 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 27 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.2.

Desperate Characters
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 27 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.2  (341)