The Last Picture Show (1971)


((mini-SPOILER Alert))

This is one of the most realistic movies I've seen in a long time. It's artfully done without beating you over the head with cinematic techniques, and I can imagine everything that happens in the film actually happening in real life. A sort of American Graffiti meets The Graduate set in Texas, The Last Picture Show provided insight into a lifestyle of which I am completely unfamiliar without the puke-inducing shots of nostalgia that movies often bombard you with (October Sky, anyone?). I thoroughly enjoyed this and was kept wanting more until the very last minute. I can totally see why it won Oscars, especially for Cloris Leachman's performance (who, up until I watched this, I had only seen in comedic roles like Young Frankenstein). 

The fact that it was in black and white was a bit annoying at first, and as it opened I thought, "Oh fuck, here's another movie set in BW to symbolize the fifties. Big whoop." As it kept going, however, I realized that the tone and content of the film wouldn't fit in color. The fact that the story is about a dying town with deteriorating and old-style values that no one is fighting to keep clicked in my head as I watched the film in a format that is now only used for artistic choices. The minute I realized that the film format was used to make us want to cling on to the last bit of youth and naivety present at the beginning of the movie (as evidenced by Sonny wanting to see a picture show and drive around with Duane before he leaves for the army), I was in awe. It made me think that if there was ever a sequel to this movie, it would be in color, since the last picture show finished along with the spirit and nostalgia of the town. That thought alone blew my sometimes idiotically slow mind. 

Another thing I loved about this film was the characters. I was so psyched to see a super young Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd, both of which had fantastic performances as the stereotyped deadbeat and town belle. I think that the reason the characters worked so well is because they represented archetypes of characters you would see in any small town- Ben Johnson as the man who runs everything, Ellen Burstyn as the woman living vicariously through her daughter, etc.- but the characters run so much deeper and are played as complex enough that you have to actually look closely to see the prototypes, rather than have to examine the characters to see beneath the surface. The combination of great writing and great actors created this typical Texas small town without actually being typical. 

My one criticism of the film is the obscenely large plot hole involving the coach. The storyline involving Sonny and Ruth was fascinating and kept me on my toes, and yet at one point Sonny turns to Lois and says, "Does everyone know about it?" to which she replies yes. So my question is, where the fuck is the coach in all this if Ruth is convinced he'll come home with his rifle? Did I miss something here? If someone could please tell me if a line was uttered that made reference to this fact, please let me know, although I'm pretty sure that if shit were to go down, it would have been a much bigger impact in the plot. Instead, the coach disappears after introducing them. It was as if his purpose was served so we no longer needed him. Peace out, Coach Popper! Enjoy your life outside the movie. 

Other than that, I found this film to be both thought provoking and realistically entertaining. The drama was interplaced throughout the film in such a way that wasn't overbearing, so that rather than reaching the end of the film and proclaiming, "Well, that's an Oscar-winning film for you," you reach the end and say, "Well, that's life." 


The Movie Mistress


  1. I found your blog on Google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. Keep working, great job! I honestly appreciate your time that you have put to write this post.

  3. Man, I've been meaning to get around to this one for ages, keep hearing awesome things. Great review though, might just be what I needed to finally get me to watch this. Looking forward to comparing notes.

    Great site btw. Keep it up!