I Saw A Film!

In a grungy city, a couple of blue collar boxers, one a decade older than other, who is just starting out, attempt to eke out an existence in a punishing and unrewarding sport. Stacy Keach is the older boxer with a set of glory days behind him and a flaky woman, played by the always bizarre Susan Tyrrell, at home. Jeff Bridges is the young buck with promise, a “white hope” the old trainers hope to earn some bank with. Their coach is “Coach” from the old Cheers show, the one passed away in 1985.

The heart of this film is sour relationships and gritty hard work on the canvas. This is no Rocky, the story here isn’t about a shot at any big time, or fighting a world champ, these guys will never see anything but local events and work-a-day purses, and so their struggle is all the more poignant.

Incidentally the write up on Amazon is entirely wrong. The Bridges and Keach characters are never anything but supportive of one another as good friends throughout. Neither’s career rises, and there isn’t a divergence of path or interest. All there is is training, trying to keep the ladies happy, and the fights.

In the case of the ladies, there’s not much hope with Keach and Tyrrell. Tyrrell is a drunk, and her persona sways wildly between petulant child and tired, demanding invalid, both of them very hard to take. There’s no talk of the future, there’s only endless bickering about food, and about going out. The apartment is squalor. A well placed fly really fills out the era’s disappointment and grossness. It honestly could be 1920 and a Henry Miller story being told. For Bridges his lady wants marriage and he’s reluctant as a 19 year old. Her point is if she’s expected to wait for him to come back from Vietnam shouldn’t they just marry now? He’s too clumsy to know how to answer. Early in the film he’s so naive he totally flubs a classic woman-trap of asking how she compares to his other lovers. Duh.

And so it goes. The fellows are catered to by the swell coach, and the friendship bonds are the sweetest aspect of the tale. There’s a bit of overuse of a couple of country and western tunes throughout but it doesn’t really detract that much from the story’s depth and honesty. In the end the poverty the fellows face is the Sisyphean battle. There are no extraneous subplots of violence. No car chases and no one has to die. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful film despite it’s leanness.

For Free on Prime! Come to see these terrific actors in their youth, stay for the well told tale and the Houston direction.

2 thoughts on “Fat City (1972)

  1. I’ll have to look for Wise Blood. I didn’t realize I was watching Houston til after I watched it. it’s always satisfying to really like something and then find out its no accident.


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