Wow. WOW. This is an intense film. I definitely wasn’t prepared for where this story would go. Richard Brooks’ bold and dark drama Looking for Mr. Goodbar had to have served as some sort of social wake-up call when it was first released in 1977. Embraced by critics and audiences, this cautionary tale of the singles scene offered up a period-appropriate glimpse at the changing sexual attitudes experienced by both sexes, but most strikingly, a free spirited female teacher who might not know exactly what she’s gotten herself into after a series of encounters with a variety of men. Featuring an absolutely blazing performance by Diane Keaton, in easily the most erotically charged work that I’ve seen from her as an actress, this rather nasty film sports a plethora of incredible supporting performances from Tom Berenger, Richard Gere, Howard Atherton, Richard Kiley, LeVar Burton, and Tuesday Weld. I had long heard of Looking for Mr. Goodbar and was super curious about it, so when it appeared on the TCM lineup this month, I totally flipped out.
I bet David Cronenberg loves this film, as it explores identity, the subversion of one’s true self, and how violence and sex are intrinsically linked. And because this film is not currently available on physical media or various streaming platforms and has become something of a talking piece among cinephiles, I am not going to discuss the plot any further for fear of any spoilers. What I will allow is that Keaton has nearly never been better, the cinematography by the great William A. Fraker conveyed casual menace in all of the best and most effective ways, and the startling opening title sequence, photographed in black and white by Kathy Fields was absolutely fantastic and immediately engrossing, bringing you into a sexy and shadowy world right from the start while the eclectic tunes of the era amped up the retro vibe. Uncompromising, startling, and more than a bit disturbing, Looking For Mr. Goodbar is certainly one of the more provocative films I’ve seen from any year in a long, long time.