I never warmed to this one quite as much as most people did. I’m not putting it down (much), but it didn’t strike me as the Best Picture (which it won) of that year. I think Raging Bull will last longer. Likewise, Martin Scorsese should have won instead of Robert Redford, in the first picture he directed. But I guess that is all sour grapes. There is nothing at all wrong here. The acting by all four, Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, and Judd Hirsch, is great. It was Hutton’s first movie, and he won the Oscar. Ms. Moore was brilliant playing totally against type as a woman who could not love, and who I couldn’t love.
But my favorite in the cast is Hirsch, who has been brilliant in more films than I would care to name. I first encountered him in a TV movie called The Law, which I’m sorry to say has never been released on video. He played a public defender who is astonished one day to get a client who is actually innocent. One reason the movie resonated with me is that it was the first time I’d seen a side of the “justice” system that wasn’t being portrayed back in 1974. It was the dysfunctional sausage machine whereby low-level misdemeanants are rushed through arraignment and into holding cells. I experienced this, being in a large, crowded cell at the L.A. County jail and getting about sixty seconds of legal advice through the bars from a lawyer I never saw again. He advised me to plead guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession (and it wasn’t even my weed!), otherwise I’d be in stir for months or more waiting for trial. Copping a plea would get me out on my own recognizance. Only it didn’t. I spent thirty days with four other guys in a four-person cell while a probation report was written … and when I finally saw a judge, she dismissed the charges. Live and learn.