Drive, He Said (1971)

Drive, He Said (1971)

“I feel so disconnected.”

A college basketball player (William Tepper) in love with the wife (Karen Black) of a professor (Robert Towne) navigates pressure from his demanding coach (Bruce Dern) and an increasing level of paranoia from his draft-avoiding roommate (Michael Margotta).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Basketball
  • Bruce Dern Films
  • Counterculture
  • Jack Nicholson Films
  • Karen Black Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that while “Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut” — “adapted by Nicholson and Jeremy Larner (Eugene McCarthy’s chief speechwriter in ’68) from Larner’s novel” — “was booed at Cannes and received mostly negative reviews in the U.S.,” he believes “it’s an impressive, highly original work, probably the best at expressing the alienation and confusion of college kids of the era.” He notes that the “film deals with rebellion on three fronts: Margotta from society/authority/sanity:

… Tepper from his baskeball-is-everything coach (Bruce Dern is fabulous):

… and Black from all the men who keep her from breathing.”

Indeed, while Tepper’s performance is merely serviceable (he didn’t go on to much of an acting career after this), he’s surrounded by a powerhouse group of supporting actors who bring the story and the era to life. Despite being “flawed and defeatist,” Nicholson’s debut film is consistently unique and intriguing, and remains worth a look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Michael Margotta as Gabriel
  • Bruce Dern as Coach Bullion
  • Karen Black as Olive
  • Confident direction and editing

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look.


One thought on “Drive, He Said (1971)

  1. Rewatch (1/11/22). Not must-see – but Nicholson fans who are also cult film fans may be curious-enough to check it out.

    Nicholson’s directorial debut is now a rather-forgotten, hardly-talked-about film that was widely hated at the Cannes film festival but which also (on release) found favor with certain critics for its daring, expressive nature.

    Personally I think it’s kind of a mess in its narrative of two polar-opposite types who are college roommates. On the one hand, it just kind of drones along and most of the film’s scenes are not all that interesting.

    On the other hand, Nicholson does show some ability as a director – and there is some real creativity in the editing (by four people!) and the moody film score.

    You might be thinking that the film is going to lead somewhere eventually but it doesn’t, really, and the conclusion is far from satisfying.

    The fact that the film is included in a box DVD set now – along with other BBS Productions films – may give it some life as a cult item.

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