Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Taking Off" Puts You On

Cleveland Press August 16, 1971

"Taking Off" is the first English-language film by Czech director Milos Foreman. His American debut is a comedy, one built on a basically tragic situation.

But with Foreman it seems not so much what he says as it is how he says it. Some of it comes out naturally funny; other moments are strained, and the whole has a disjointed look. But in the end the picture is a triumph of whimsy over pathos.

The situation involves a runaway teenage girl and the frantic search for her by her distraught parents.

The parents, played by Buck Henry and Lynn Carlin, manage to look funny in situations they are basically unhappy.

Imagining their daughter the victim of a hippie disaster, they search frantically through New York's East Village, make a wild-goose chase into upstate New York, and wind up joining a group called the Society for Parents of Fugitive Children (S.P.F.C.).

Foreman looks at it all rather obliquely and concentrates on the minor details. So it has a pathetically funny look. At the S.P.F.C. meeting people make small talk, just like at funerals. Wives gossip and giggle over their husband's romantic habits. Husbands run around uselessly because they have to do something to appease their wives.

Foreman sometimes strains. Parents experimenting with marijuana, so they can understand their offspring, is more movie than real life.

The girl disappeared during an audition for teenage singers, and Foreman keeps coming back to this scene. It's a bit confusing but is also a funny and satiric glance at the whole youth exploitation field.

Foreman's particular ability is to make the ordinary look interesting. In "Taking Off" he succeeds.