Thursday, September 1, 2022

#2,809. Jeremy (1973) - Robby Benson in the 1970s


It was in my review of 1955’s East of Eden that I first mentioned the book Rating the Movie Stars, published in the early ‘80s by Consumers Guide. This book rates the performances - on a film-by-film basis - of all the major stars, then, using a weighted average, assigns a score for each and every actor. Using a scale of zero (for awful) to four (excellent), Rating the Movie Stars mostly got it right, with actors like Bette Davis, James Cagney, and the like scoring very highly. But it got it wrong sometimes as well; Marlon Brando, one of the greatest actors of all-time, has a paltry 2.55 score (though, to be fair, it was his later performances that brought his average down).

Another actor the book unfairly maligned is Robby Benson. With a rating of 2.10 out of 4, the editors of Consumers Guide felt that Benson was too “boyish and gangling for his own good”. They were just as rough on his performance in 1973’s Jeremy, in which he played the title character, saying Benson “wallowed in his self-conscious charm”. I find this critique particularly puzzling, seeing as, in Jeremy, both he and co-star Glynnis O’Connor (making her screen debut) were essentially playing themselves!

An exemplary student and a damn good basketball player, teenager Jeremy Jones (Benson) is also shy, and has a hard time expressing himself. His music teacher (Leonardo Cimino) tells Jeremy that, although the young man is a talented cellist, he doesn’t “feel” the music; he simply imitates it, and that is preventing Jeremy from being a great musician.

But Jeremy gets an unexpected lesson in life and love when he falls for new student Susan Rollins (O’Connor), whose family recently moved to New York City. Coerced by his good friend Ralph (Len Bari) to ask Susan out on a date, Jeremy finds that she is just as quiet and introverted as he is. It isn’t long before the two are head-over-heels in love, but when Susan’s father (Ned Wilson) receives a new job offer, it may spell the end of their brief but very passionate affair.

Shot on 16mm in New York City, Jeremy has an almost documentary-like feel to it, and writer / director Arthur Barron does his part to keep things “real” by taking a very direct approach to the material. That’s not to imply the film is static or devoid of style; in one energetic scene, when Jeremy is running through the streets to arrange a “chance” meeting with Susan, the camera follows behind, sprinting right along with him. But Barron allows his characters, not cinematic bells and whistles, to drive the story forward, and both Benson and O’Connor manage to do just that.

Their scenes together are sweet, taking the awkwardness of first love and watching it evolve into something special. For one of their first dates, Jeremy takes Susan to the horse track (though he doesn’t bet, Jeremy is a master handicapper, and can predict the winner of any race), where they watch the jockeys and horses during their morning workouts. It’s here that we notice Jeremy and Susan are suddenly more comfortable in each other’s company, and their time together from that point on (including a tastefully-shot love scene) only strengthens the bond between them. Benson and O’Connor have a great chemistry (aided by the fact the two actually fell in love while making this movie), and are perfectly believable at all stages of their character’s budding relationship.

A delightful motion picture and a touching romance, Jeremy is also proof-positive that Rating the Movie Stars somehow missed the boat on Robby Benson.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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