You and I are So Awfully Different
Midnight Cowboy is directed by John Schlesinger and is based on the 1965 novel of the same name by James Leo Herlihy. The film stars Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight and won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The one thing anyone would know off hand about the 1969 Best Picture winner Midnight Cowboy is its infamous "I'm walkin' here!" scene, in which Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman are walking down a New York street together, then all of a sudden a taxi cab pulls out and nearly runs into Hoffman. According to IMDb, nothing about the incident was scripted. The movie didn't have a permit to close down the street for filming, so the scene had to be set up by a camera in a van driving down the street and use remote microphones for Voight and Hoffman. Fifteen some takes later, everything was going well, until the taxi ran a red light and seemingly killed the take. Hoffman, however, stayed in character and shouted the famous line. Voight, impressed by the way Hoffman handled the situation, managed to stay in character as well.
It's too bad honestly, because that one scene is as good as Midnight Cowboy gets.
The rest of Midnight Cowboy is a rather unpleasant grind, the kind of grind that eventually has you begging and pleading for the end credits to start. It won't take long before you give up all hopes of getting yourself invested in the movie in any way, so it becomes just a matter of time until those sight-for-sore-eyes credits start scrolling and you finally have a legitimate excuse to turn off the movie. Don't get me wrong. Midnight Cowboy is far from a total disaster. Hell, it blows a lot of its previous Best Picture brothers and sisters out of the water. But while there may be some small pockets of good chunks here and there over the course of the movie's 113 minutes, they're largely offset by all the larger, not-so-good chunks that will likely keep you far away from any repeat viewings.
So anyway, Midnight Cowboy tells the story of Joe Buck (Jon Voight), a young man from Texas who quits his job as a dishwasher in order to head to New York City and make a fortune. Things don't start out well for Joe, until he meets and befriends con man Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). The two develop a powerful friendship as they deal with living on the outskirts of New York.
Yeah, that's about it plot-wise.
- Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman show to be an excellent pair, with top-notch acting performances in their respective roles. This is one of the last films I would recommend if you're trying to put yourself in a good mood. The movie addresses uneasy themes of grim realism and being seen as a lowlife by society, as Joe and Ratso struggle to make themselves relevant in a world that refuses to welcome them with open arms. The New York they are in is a gritty and unpleasant one, but the acting performances have you wanting to see how our two leads will traverse their way through it.
- The majority of other reviews I've read for this film basically say, "yeah, Midnight Cowboy isn't a very nice movie, but those acting performances are just so terrific!" I'm on board with the strength of the acting, but I refuse to accept the ignorance towards a lot of the other parts of the film, particularly the plot. It will dawn on you pretty fast that the plot is paper thin, the script attempting to deceive you into thinking something is happening with petty conversations between Joe and Ratso that lack any kind of bite. There's a lengthy scene in which Joe and Ratso go to a party, but it's mostly highlighted by bizarre hallucinations, ending with Joe leaving the party and taking a girl to spend the night with. Bizarre hallucinations are a recurring part of the movie, with Joe having several different nightmare-ish visions, such as hearing a girl constantly say, "You're the only one, Joe." None of these nightmares/hallucinations add up to much of anything, only serving to fuel the film's unsettling attitude.
- It irritates me that there are claims that Midnight Cowboy is a movie about homosexuality. The extent to which Midnight Cowboy addresses homosexuality is when a girl teasingly suggests that Joe might be gay, as well as Joe and Ratso having a quip about "cowboys being fags." This is easily more of a buddy film. Nothing in the movie, dialogue or otherwise, would suggest that Joe and Ratso are developing romantic feelings for one another. I think there would have been more meat to the drama had the movie gone more in that direction, because it would draw out more details about who Joe and Ratso are, where they came from, and the type of beliefs that the two have. Would Joe be fooling himself into thinking he's actually a ladies man if he did feel some sort of romantic connection with Ratso? How would Ratso react if he knew that, even in the hell he's living, he was able to find someone to possibly share his entire life with? These kind of interesting questions go unexplored, which I can't help but think as nothing short of disappointing.
You can count me out of the fan club of Midnight Cowboy, a movie that I disliked far more than I thought I would. The acting may be stellar, but the acting in and of itself is not going to save this movie from all of its flaws. Shallow plotting limits the impact of the film's drama, and I seriously question Schlesinger's direction, with the movie not going in all the directions it should have. It's a movie that thinks it's a lot more important than it actually is, not addressing all the right themes and not taking well to the power of time. Had the movie been constructed in the right way, I think it would have been brought back into the minds of the people of the 21st century, considering all that is happening with LGBTQ rights. Is that to say I think Midnight Cowboy should have been about homosexuality? In a way, yes. I think being more specific about homosexuality would have done wonders for the film. But it doesn't take that route, at least, not in a notable enough capacity. Instead, the movie goes for some weak buddy drama that isn't very enjoyable to sit through. Midnight Cowboy is an unfortunate dud to end a decade of some superb Best Picture winners.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: