Bogdanovich's finest effort; bleak and beguiling. None of his other films ranks with THE LAST PICTURE SHOW when it comes to dramatic flair and authenticity. He seems comfortable doing period pieces, but, in this, his second feature (preceded by TARGETS), he captures the era so accurately
that the viewer can feel the hopelessness of living in a dying Texas town. Bridges and Timothy Bottoms are the stars of the lackluster local high school football team. Bridges is the aggressive one, and Timothy Bottoms provides the contrasting sensitivity; they are best friends. The story unfolds
seamlessly, detailing relationships in a small town. Sam Bottoms is a retarded boy (he got the part after he showed up to watch brother Tim's first day of shooting) who is the butt of cruel jokes by the denizens of the cafe-pool hall-theater owned by Johnson, a one-time cowboy who seems to be
every boy's idol and surrogate father. Tim Bottoms takes up the cudgel as Sam Bottom's protector and is soon befriended, then bedded by Leachman, the lonely wife of the school's basketball coach, Thurman. The affair continues for most of the picture, heating up and cooling down a few times. To
keep it up, Tim Bottoms ceases dating his regular girl friend, Taggart. Bridges continues dating his girl, Shepherd, but is not happy about her self-centered behavior. She attends a nude bathing party in order to meet the rich Brockette. Her mother, Burstyn, wants her daughter to marry well.
Brockette rejects Shepherd because he doesn't want to be bothered with a virgin. Bridges and Tim Bottoms take a short and wild trip to Mexico, and when they return they are saddened to learn that Johnson has died.
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW is a refreshing look backward. While others were outfoxing themselves with multiscreen techniques, Bogdanovich made a movie that could have been shot years before and the result was critically and financially rewarding. The director is an admirer of Ford and Hawks and this is
a homage to their styles, as opposed to the kind of ripoffs Colin Higgins and Brian De Palma have done with Hitchcock. The only element that separates this from an early film is the use of frontal nudity and the frank treatment accorded the adult themes. Bogdanovich was hailed as another Orson
Welles (another of the director's mentors and friends). This episodic, human story lives and breathes with more power than any Darth Vader or Rocky. There was a time when Bogdanovich considered Jimmy Stewart, among others, for a part in the film. However, he wisely opted against using established
stars. Johnson and Leachman each won Oscars, and the entire cast is quite fine (especially Ellen Burstyn, seen here like she's never been, before or since). Look for "Magnum's" John Hillerman in a small role as a teacher. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW could have been a tawdry, sleazy soap opera, but the
31-year-old former film critic kept a light, compassionate touch that elevated the story and presented it as a slice of a life that has all but disappeared.
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- Released: 1971
- Rating: R
- Review: Bogdanovich's finest effort; bleak and beguiling. None of his other films ranks with THE LAST PICTURE SHOW when it comes to dramatic flair and authenticity. He seems comfortable doing period pieces, but, in this, his second feature (preceded by TARGETS), h… (more)