T.R. Baskin (1971)

T.R. Baskin (1971)

“The city is pretty from a distance — like someone with bad skin.”

A young woman (Candice Bergen) from a small town heads to Chicago, where she falls for a guy (James Caan) who inexplicably mistakes her for a prostitute, and recommends her “services” to a former college buddy (Peter Boyle).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Candice Bergen Films
  • Coming of Age
  • Flashback Films
  • Herbert Ross Films
  • James Caan Films
  • Prostitutes and Gigolos

Herbert Ross directed this somewhat bewildering flashback tale (scripted by Peter Hyams) about a naive young woman in the Big Cold City who is so offended at being mistaken for a prostitute that she… becomes one.

The film’s “plot twist” is given away immediately, leaving all narrative tension (such as it is) to Bergen’s big reveal about how or why Caan could have done such a thing (spoiler alert — we never really learn). When the true meaning of a character’s initials is one of the film’s biggest mysteries (hint: Bergen’s character is named after a famous supporting actress), you know you’re in trouble. Thelma Ritter, please rescue us!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some effective cinematography

Must See?
No; don’t bother seeking this one out.


3 thoughts on “T.R. Baskin (1971)

  1. Not must-see, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say “don’t bother seeking this one out.” Besides, it’s not easily found. It’s now a very obscure film, all but impossible to come across easily.

    I saw it on release – because I happened to be a movie usher at the time. When you’re a movie usher, you don’t really see movies all the way through, as a rule – you see bits and pieces of them over and over. So it’s possible I didn’t see it from start to finish until now.

    Over the years, the only thing I remembered from this movie was part of a phone call that Bergen makes to her parents near the film’s end: “Please don’t wake him up, mom! -Would you please not wake him up? -Hi, Dad!” (I found that amusing.)

    It’s probably easy to see why Caan mistakes Bergen for a prostitute, based on how they first meet. Bergen sees Caan looking at her through a coffee shop window – but instead of just appreciating his glance and walking on (as most women might do), Bergen enters the place and sits down and talks to him. Her character is eccentric – it’s something she would do. Unfortunately, it’s also something a prostitute would do.

    So it becomes a film about misunderstanding a man’s sexual drive, in an alienating urban setting.

    It’s still not a great movie. It’s a tiny character study. I don’t think Bergen “becomes” a prostitute – I think she follows up with Boyle out of a curiosity connected to her disappointment with Caan. She intends a sort of mild ‘revenge’. But the story ultimately goes in a gentler direction, and Bergen’s glib character gains a bit of dignity.

  2. I really like your perspective on this — thanks! That helps me see things in a different light.

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