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Desperate Characters
Desperate Characters
Actors: Shirley McLaine, Kenneth Mars
Director: Frank D. Gilroy
Genres: Drama
R     2008     1hr 28min

Oscar® winner Shirley MacLaine is nothing short of brilliant in this gripping drama by acclaimed writer/director Frank D. Gilroy (The Subject Was Roses). With wit and real wisdom, Desperate Characters brilliantly examines ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Shirley McLaine, Kenneth Mars
Director: Frank D. Gilroy
Creators: Urs B. Furrer, Lee Konitz, Ron Carter, Jim Hall, Robert Q. Lovett
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance
Studio: Legend Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 07/01/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1971
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1971
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 28min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Great Movie!! Re-release this Movie!!
Philip Cairns | 12/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Shirley MaClaine stars in this early 70's great movie concerning disillusioned New Yorkers,but re-release this movie so that humble people such as myself can afford it!!"
Geary A., Jones | 12/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Shirley Maclaine and Kenneth Mars are simply incredible in this film, playing urbanites that seem literally trapped in their own lives. You can almost taste their bitterness, and hopelessness. Neither they nor their friends seem capable of admitting real emotion to show through their sad facades while they are together, and the silences become volcanic, and truly deafening. They don't really seem to care about one another ( Mars, as Otto, is something of a bullying ogre ). Either because they are too socially conscious, or too set in their ways they have apparently not considered divorce. I was unable to take my eyes off from Maclaine. She imbued her character ( Sophie ) with so many complexities that every gesture, or glance said volumes.

This is a very intense, and devastating film, and the Academy was definitely out to lunch in overlooking Maclaine, and Mars at Oscar time. It is also an extremely depressing movie. The plot is secondary to the dialogue, cinematography, and character developement. I loved it."
Waiting for the barbarians
Jay Dickson | Portland, OR | 07/16/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Otto and Sophie Bentwood (Kenneth Mars and Shirley Maclaine) live in a gigantic, messy brownstone in 1970 Brooklyn Heights, but for all intents and purposes they might as well be living in Paris in 1848. Barricaded in from the street and the changing social and political world outside by means of their barred entryway, locks, and intercom system (which are given plenty of attention in this film), the Bentwoods are left to tear each other apart with their mutual dissastisfactions. Then the outdoors slowly comes creeping into their home: first with the bite of a (possibly rabid) cat that Sophie tries to befriend, then with the midnight drunken visit of Otto's former partner in his law firm, then by a young man wanting to use their phone. The Bentwoods begin to discover that there is no safety behind closed doors.

Paula Fox's beautifully claustrophobic and depressing 1970 novel seemed a natural to be filmed because of its compressed time frame over one long unhappy weekend; it might still make an absolutely first-rate film some day, but this Frank D. Gilroy film made a year after the novel was published doesn't quite pull it off. Gilroy was experimenting quite a bit in this film with shots of very dark city streets and with intentionally disorienting jump cuts to shots above the characters after intense conversations that make them look trapped and hopeless; he also deliberately made the Bentwoods' clothes, hairdos, and homes look as awful as possible (even by the standards of one of the least stylish periods in American cultural history). To say the result isn't very cheerful is putting it mildly; but it's also very off-putting in narrative terms. It's hard to much care for the Bentwoods' social world which seems so sterile as to deserve to be doomed, and though it's fascinating to see Kenneth Mars in a serious role, he's exceptionally unpleasant as Otto.

The main reason to see this film is Shirley Maclaine, who delivers perhaps her best dramatic performance here. Her best scenes often are her wordless scenes, when she turns up her beautiful rosy-pink face towards the other actors and stares at them as her mind races. This is such a far cry from the mannered ding-a-ling roles from both her earlier and later years that here she seems quite another actress altogether. With Sada Thompson, who invests her very unlikely speeches with her characteristic dignity and grace, and Carol Kane in a tiny part as a young hippie."
Great Film
Philip Cairns | Toronto | 11/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD is excellent. I love the film. I first saw it in 1972, soon after it came out. The acting is great, particularly by Shirley MacLaine. It really is one of her best performances. The script is also really good.

The sound and picture quality on the DVD are beautiful. I own 2 VHS copies of the film. The quality on both is poor. It is one of those SP mode cheap videos and both copies skip, once in a while.

If you haven't seen this film and you like serious dramas with great acting and a fabulous cast, then you are in for a real treat if you buy this film on DVD.

The film received excellent reviews, when it came out, but it was not widely distributed, outside of the major U.S. cities. MacLaine won the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival for this film.

Philip Cairns"