“I just don’t understand your sudden interest in those kind of people.”
A wealthy white man (Beau Bridges) purchases a rundown tenement in Brooklyn, intending to convert it into a ritzy apartment — but soon he finds himself deeply enmeshed in the lives of his black tenants, and his plans begin to shift.
Before being asked to helm the cult hit Harold and Maude (1971), Hal Ashby made his directorial debut with this irreverent, hard-hitting satire about race and class relations in New York City. Centering on its titular protagonist’s belated “coming of age” at 29 years old (and his growing social consciousness), it boldly explores the tensions inherent in gentrification. Much like Bud Cort’s Harold, Bridges’ Elgar Enders is a baby-faced, overly protected man-boy from a wealthy family who longs for independence from his domineering mother — played here by Lee Grant, giving a fearless performance as a bigoted shrew (she was rightfully nominated as Best Supporting Actress). Subplots involve Elgar’s romance with a light-skinned dancer (Marki Bey), and his drunken one-night-stand with a tenant (Diana Sands), which propels the film towards its increasingly dark denouement. While Ashby can’t quite seem to figure out the right tone for the film — it veers wildly from satire to drama and back again — he should be applauded for daring to tackle such challenging issues his first time behind the camera.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Beau Bridges as Elgar Enders
- Lee Grant as Elgar’s mom
- Diana Sands as Francine
- A refreshingly blunt look at racial tensions
- Creative editing
No, but it’s strongly recommended.