You’re a Big Boy Now (1966)

You’re a Big Boy Now (1966)

“I’m always lonely — especially when I’m with people.”

After his overbearing mother (Geraldine Page) and father (Rip Torn) find him an apartment in a complex run by a neurotic spinster (Julie Harris), a virginal young man (Peter Kastner) working at the New York Public Library falls hard for a beautiful, elusive go-go dancer (Elizabeth Hartman); meanwhile, his friend Raef (Tony Bill) attempts to help hook him up with an eager co-worker (Karen Black).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Coming of Age
  • Francis Ford Coppola Films
  • Elizabeth Hartman Films
  • Geraldine Page Films
  • Julie Harris Films
  • Karen Black Films
  • New York City
  • Obsessive Love
  • Rip Torn Films

Following his directorial debut of Dementia 13 (1963), Francis Ford Coppola’s thesis assignment for UCLA Film School was this madcap coming-of-age comedy, based on a novel by David Benedictus and filled to the brim with cinematic enthusiasm. It was inevitably compared with similarly themed films released both just before and after it — including The Knack… And How to Get It (1965) and The Graduate (1967) — but became a cult favorite in its own right. Unfortunately, the storyline overflows with forced quirkiness: Kastner doesn’t just work at the NY Public Library (where his father is a rare books specialist), but roller skates through its aisles (and through the streets of New York).

Meanwhile, his arrogant mega-crush, “Barbara Darling” (Hartman), is buddies with a dwarf (Michael Dunn) who transcribes her stories about — what else? — an aggressive albino hypnotherapist with one wooden leg:

… high-strung Harris is only allowed to manage the apartment given to her by her late brother if she lets his pet rooster roam around on the fifth floor; Oscar-nominated Page is simply a caricature of an overbearing mother:

… and Torn is a lech (though this does lead to an amusing scene between him and Harris involving a secret vault of erotica).

In her breakthrough debut role, Black is effectively earnest — though it’s challenging to understand why in the world she has such an intense crush on nebbishy, ungrateful Kastner.

It’s Hartman’s character — a royal bitch with a truly crazy-making personality — who emerges as most memorable, and Hartman (apparently shy and troubled in real life) plays nicely against type.

Your tolerance for this film will depend entirely on how easily you get caught up in its fast-paced editing, cinema verite shooting style, and defiant whimsicality — and also how curious you are to see Coppola’s earliest efforts.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Elizabeth Hartman as Barbara Darling
  • An effective time capsule glimpse at New York in the ’60s

Must See?
No, unless you’re a diehard Coppola fan. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “You’re a Big Boy Now (1966)

  1. Agreed, not must-see, though it’s a unique cult film in cinema history.

    The film is such a ’60s creation that, in its day, it may have had the kind of impact that (unlike ‘The Graduate’, a film it inspired) has somewhat diminished with time.

    Nevertheless, I have a fondness for the film; mainly for:
    – its opening tracking shot inside the library which culminates in Hartman’s societal affront of an entrance , which wonderfully sets the right tone for the film;
    – Hartman and Page’s performances;
    – John Sebastian’s terrific songs

    I wouldn’t say it’s a film I tend to return to for revisits but ffs are likely to appreciate it on some level.

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