Sunday, July 14, 2019

Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977) Date Noir

Written and Directed by Richard Brooks.

Brooks (directed Classic Film Noir (Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), Transitional Noir In Cold Blood (1967), and was screenwriter of notably The Killers (1946) (un-credited though), Brute Force (1947), Crossfire (1947), Key Largo (1948), Mystery Street (1950), Storm Warning (1951), Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), and In Cold Blood (1967)).

Brook's screenplay was based on the novel by Judith Rossner which in turn was based on an article she wrote about the real life murder of Roseann Quinn. The piece was intended for a special woman's issue of Esquire magazine. However the Esquire editors got cold feet for possible legal ramifications and decided not to publish. Rossner then used the material she researched in her novel.

Cinematography was by William A. Fraker (Bullitt (1968), Coonskin (1975), The Killer Inside Me (1976)), music was by Artie Kane.

The film Stars Diane Keaton as Theresa Dunn, Tuesday Weld as Katherine Dunn, William Atherton as James, Richard Kiley as Mr. Dunn, Richard Gere as Tony, Alan Feinstein as Martin, Tom Berenger as Gary, Priscilla Pointer as Mrs. Dunn, Alexander Courtney as Arthur, Joel Fabiani as Barney, Julius Harris as Black Cat, Richard Bright as George, LeVar Burton as Cap Jackson, Brian Dennehy as Surgeon, Richard Venture as Doctor, and Elizabeth Cheshire as Young Theresa.

Diane Keaton as Theresa Dunn

Tuesday Weld as Katherine Dunn

Richard Kiley as Mr. Dunn and Priscilla Pointer as Mrs. Dunn

Alan Feinstein as Martin

Richard Gere as Tony

William Atherton as James

Tom Berenger as Gary
The film's credit sequence is a nice Noir-ish Black & White montage of the singles scene.


Theresa Dunn is a young Irish/Polish, former Catholic school girl growing up in a big city. Right there are two clues that anyone familiar with Catholic school girls knows, sort of instinctively, how this is going to play out. It's either going to be A Nun's Story or Girl Gone Wild.

The real story happened in New York, this film never states the city it does show a glimpse of the Chicago el, and some Chicago neighborhoods but then also shows what looks like your typical L.A. strip. The strip of course is always strategically filmed at night. So it's any big city USA.

Back to the film. Theresa now a college senior and pretty much off her religious and parental leash is out in the real world. She has a crush on Martin her English professor. She works in his campus office after class as a sort of secretary. Is he a sort of a benign serial sexual predator, who just takes advantage of gullible naive females who are experimenting with their sexuality, or is he a genuine falling in love with falling in love type of guy with willing females who are helped on their way to becoming well adjusted women. Both parties benefit from the relationships. Theresa looses her virginity to Martin.

Anyway they have a hot steamy affair.

Meanwhile during the depiction of their affair, we get a glimpse of Theresa's past and home life. She had scoliosis as a child. Had an operation, and spent a whole year in a full body cast, and as a result is a bit self conscious about her scars.

Young Theresa - Elizabeth Cheshire

Theresa has one sister Brigid who is a baby factory, another Katherine is the "perfect" beauty. Katherine is a jet setter stewardess.

Katherine, while home for Christmas, confesses to Theresa that's she's been living with a man in New York and another in Chicago. The current problem is that she's one month pregnant and doesn't know who the father is. She tell's Theresa that she's going to get an abortion down in "the islands."

When Katherine gets back she announces to her family that she is engaged to a Jewish man she met on her resent trip. Her family is not approving. Vivre la révolution sexuelle!

Teaching the Deaf
Martin breaks off the relationship with Theresa. She graduates. Takes a job teaching deaf children. She's good at it. Theresa starts to feel too corralled by her overly strict parents rules.  Katherine convinces her to move out of her folks home and into an apartment in her building. Free to do as she pleases Katherine starts hitting the singles bars.

Tony and Theresa
At one of the watering holes she meets Tony, today we'd classify him with having ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), he acts like a nut job. Theresa inexplicably says that's for me.

Theresa is intrigued enough with Tony's antics to invite him up to her apartment, she sleeps with him, takes cocaine with him, and pops a Quaalude when he leaves. She's late for school the next day when she oversleeps. When she begins to hit the single bars again she finds that Tony has disappeared from the club scene. Was he just a one night stand?

Theresa next meets through a student at her school, a welfare case worker named James. He's an Irish Catholic boy. They being to date. He gets her family's good seal of approval. He appears stable and looks like husband material. Their dates end up in heavy petting make-out sessions that leave Theresa unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

James represents the traditional family values corner. He wants to just court her and put off having  sex until their wedding night. Theresa is comparatively, light-years ahead of all that noise. Theresa doesn't commit. It frustrates James. Theresa meanwhile is still shopping around, hitting the singles clubs during their relationship. James now obsessed with Theresa is becoming her stalker.

James in Mustang  stalking Theresa, notice  typical L.A. style lampposts
Meanwhile sister Katherine and hubby are becoming quite the swingers often having all night weed and booze parties watching porno stag loops followed by group sex. They try and entice Theresa to join in.

Theresa becomes a regular "round heels" having sex with practically everyone she takes a fancy to. In the film it's either again a Theresa daydream fantasy or its actually hinted at that Theresa is accepting money for sexual favors, basically becoming a sort of amateur recreational hooker. It's not clear and this one along with other sudden daydream episodes is one of the minor quibbles people have with the film.


Tony reappears during one of these trysts that Theresa is having in her apartment. He jimmy's the lock on Theresa's door and runs off the "john." Tony becomes a control freak and starts to stalk and harass Theresa to the extent that he even shows up at the school for the deaf. The brother of one of Theresa's students roughs Tony up. Theresa fearing revenge, imagines Tony ratting her out to the police, she heads home and flushes all her drugs down the toilet.

Another New Years Eve. Theresa is out trolling the bars. She got a New Years resolution to change her life after one last fling. She spies an attractive stranger named Gary she approaches him as he's playing pinball.

Gary is a "sexually confused" ex con, in other words a weirdo. Is he gay, is he straight, is he Bi? Gary has recently been a boy toy for old queens living off their "gifts."  Gary, somewhat equally attracted to Theresa tells her that he's got a pregnant wife living in Florida. They split for Theresa's pad and there it goes Noirsville.


Brooks paints a cautionary tale, multiple casual hook-ups can get your ass in a jam. In the code days women were either Madonnas or whores, in our post code world they can be both. Keaton and Weld are both excellent.

The only two critiques I've heard of the film are one, Brooks use of Theresa's confusing daydream sequences disrupting the flow of the story, and the initial decision to discard the part the real victim Rosanne Quinn played in her own demise. In the film Theresa Dunn is shown as basically picking her partners on whims or attraction.

In the true story Roseann Ouinn was shown to possibly be a bit of a thrill seeking masochist. But questions remain. Was she picking her partners because they displayed damaged egos that she could manipulate, or maybe was it a warped extension of her help giver profession that she channeled into the realm of the sexual help? Or was she just kinked that particular way and was looking for rough sex and trouble, and maybe that, was her antidote to being the overly sugary sweet, well loved teacher. Who knows. She just picked the wrong guy, once. Screen caps are from an online screener. 7/10

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