Analysis of the juvenile artist, "straight and to the point: Grow up!" The New York Library is the introductory, cavernous cocoon, the protagonist (Peter Kastner, a sort of George Segal understudy) literally glides by, dying to burst out. Dad (Rip Torn) presides as curator, Mom (Geraldine Page) weeps as her boy moves to his new Manhattan flat, the spinster at the top of the stairwell (Julie Harris) is a guardian of purity. At the center of the whirlwind, Kastner stops to contemplate a plaque marked "W.C." and drifts into dreamy wordplay: "‘War and Country’? ‘Welcome Communists’?" (Later on, racist graffiti at the subway station triggers a Scottish musical number.) The nice girl (Karen Black) is always a couple of steps behind, no match for the capricious carnality of the Bitch Goddess (Elizabeth Hartman) the lad picks as his Muse. "What’s wrong with me?" "Nothing a firing squad wouldn’t help." The scampering technique is Lester-Schlesinger-De Broca flipbook, but the youthful upheaval of Francis Ford Coppola’s sophomore screwball is attuned to the Bertolucci libretto of Prima della Rivoluzione. Emancipation and emasculation are the chief concerns, a jump-cutting flow salted with Tashlin gags -- a man-hating pet rooster, a muggy cop who keeps forgetting his pistol, Kastner leaning in for a kiss with his pants unfastened and spilling a glass of milk on the carpet. (Hartman’s frigid waif gets the major Freudian joke, pantomiming terror at being seduced by an "albino hypnotherapist with a wooden leg" and then laughing at Poe’s swinging pendulum.) A manic camera sliding on roller skates and floating on kites, Dementia 13 projected on a Greenwich Village discotheque, The Lovin’ Spoonful and conveyor-belt pretzels. The polish of The Graduate is just over the rise, so is Coppola’s own reworking of familial tremors in The Rain People. With Tony Bill, Dolph Sweet, and Michael O’Sullivan.
--- Fernando F. Croce