Review by Brian Koller|
3½ stars out of 4
"Midnight Cowboy" is an excellent film that demonstrates
the gap between ambitions and reality, and gives
a flavor of what New York City (and rural Texas)
was like in the late 1960s. "Midnight Cowboy" was
also a landmark film in its explicit treatment of sexual
behavior, especially homosexuality, which initially
earned an 'X' rating. (The rating was later rescinded
after the Oscars had awarded it "Best Picture".)
Joe Buck (Jon Voight) is a young Texan who decides to
leave his dishwashing job and move to New York City.
He is naively certain that he can make a good living
as a "hustler", meaning a prostitute with older women
Upon reaching New York, he is soon hustled himself.
Slow to realize the difference between reality and
his fantasies, he becomes impoverished and a male prostitute.
He moves into a condemned apartment already occupied
by small-time con and cripple Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman)
who has dreams of his own: living as an important man
The director, John Schlesinger, makes frequent use of
brief, long-ago flashbacks of Buck's childhood, and
pairs these flashbacks to relevent events in the present.
We learn that Buck was raised by his grandmother, who had
multiple boyfriends and who neglected and possibly sexually
abused him. There are also fantasy scenes paired with
their real-world result. For example, Voight approaches a
would-be customer, and there is a fantasy scene of him
escorting her to a posh suite. The reality scene has
her making a quick exit, leaving Voight standing in
the street with a stupid look on his face. These
flashback/fantasy scenes are even better than the rest
of the film, and it is a wonder that more films do not
make use of them. Certainly Schlesinger was deserving
of his 'Best Director' Academy Award.
Dustin Hoffman is endearing in the role of Rizzo.
Hoffman can be very likable in secondary roles (as in
"Papillon"), where his character can show more
Voight was a late casting, after the role had been
offered to Michael Sarrazin and even Elvis Presley.
The Joe Buck character is perhaps too naive and
stupid, but Voight is very credible as a yokel.
Copyright © 1999 Brian Koller