Monday, April 11, 2022

#2,737. The Strawberry Statement (1970) - Quentin Tarantino Recommends


1970’s The Strawberry Statement is a dated film, but it’s dated in the same way that The Graduate or Easy Rider are dated. The styles, situations, and values may make it a time capsule of a bygone era, but the film itself features enough heart and (especially) style to engage a modern audience.

A young Bruce Davison stars as Simon, a college student at an unspecified San Francisco-based university, and a member of the school’s rowing team. Unlike other kids, Simon isn’t politically-minded. That is, until his roommate brings home a pretty yet radicalized co-ed, who informs Simon that a group of students plan to occupy the office of the University’s President. They are protesting a planned gymnasium that the school intends to build in an African-American community, without the consent of the locals.

At first seeing this sit-in as a way to meet girls, Simon joins the protestors, who have taken over the entire administration building. Simon does make a few new friends, including the organizer, Elliot (Bob Balaban), and he even falls in love with the revolutionary-minded Linda (Kim Darby). But as Simon gets deeper into the movement, he finds himself agreeing with their cause, and is soon willing to risk his future to help these “radicals” achieve their goals.

As directed by Stuart Hagmann, who was making his feature film debut, The Strawberry Statement is a visually exciting movie, with plenty of jump cuts, spinning cameras, and rapid close-ups. At times, these stylistic choices can be a distraction, especially in the final sequence, when the students and police square off against each other. But for the most part they generate a tangible energy.

The cast does a nice job as well. Davison is convincing as Simon, the apolitical lead character who eventually joins the cause, while Darby, Balaban, Bud Cort (as Simon’s buddy), George MacLeod (as a jock who has a change of heart) and James Coco (in a brief but funny cameo as a grocer) are solid in support. Another strength of The Strawberry Statement is its soundtrack, which features music by Thunderclap Newman (Something in the Air), Crosby, Stills and Nash (several tunes, including Suite: Judy Blue Eyes), Neil Young (Down By the River) and even John Lennon (Give Peace a Chance, which features prominently in the movie’s final scene).

Even if modern audiences have a hard time identifying with aspects of The Strawberry Statement, the film’s kinetic style, its performances, the great music, and the dramatic finale will likely win them over.
Rating: 7 out of 10

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