“I need a way of living that I can rationalize!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Indeed, in its depiction of Bottoms’ relentless quest to earn Houseman’s respect — and its overall presentation of the rigors of law school, complete with plenty of heady dialogue and ruthlessly competitive interactions —
The Paper Chase fully succeeds, and we remain enthusiastically engaged; as Vincent Canby points out in his review for The New York Times, it’s refreshing to see a movie that “acknowledge[s] the existence of a mind”. Unfortunately, however, this focus is interrupted time and again by a poorly developed romantic subplot, one which ultimately feels both contrived and unsatisfying.
Wagner’s character, while potentially fascinating, is insufficiently developed to earn our interest; instead, she functions merely as a distraction for Bottoms — someone who happens to conveniently possess an insider’s perspective on the man Bottoms is single-mindedly obsessed with. Meanwhile, Bottoms’ character eventually becomes so callously self-absorbed that we stop rooting for him — a dangerous outcome for a film predicated on whether or not our dauntless protagonist will succeed in his quest.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: