Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Getting Straight" Crooked in Dealing With Campus

Cleveland Press August 7, 1970

Is "Getting Straight" a movie that makes the scene or just exploits it? Set on a campus against the background of college rebellion, the film takes an antiestablishment stance but under its glib, slick surface has a substratum of establishment movie making.

I have a hunch that "Getting Straight" will be taken to the collective bosom of most young moderns if only because it does knock the establishment. Those seriously involved with youthful unrest (or if older and not involved but simply concerned) will recognize the straw men, the contrived theatricalities, the conventions that it pretends to hate.

WHAT MAKES "Getting straight" work is Elliott Gould in the pivotal role of a drop out trying to drop hack in. As an older graduate student whose involvement with war and civil disturbances are behind him he can look at both sides of the campus unrest scene with jaundiced indifference.

Gould plays what has become almost a convention in modern movies -- the lovable kook. Try as it might however, no script has yet made one of these kooks completely convincing.

Gould speaks in epigrams, puts down and puts on people with equal ease. The conventions make him a movie character, not a person. He is over-dedicated, over-sexed and over-glib. For Gould it is a tour de force, a skillful performance in a showcase role.

Candice Bergen is better than she has been in previous movies in the role of his mistress. But this too is a mixed up gal, mixed up in a way that makes the plot work out in a predictable manner.

THEY LOVE, they fight, they drift apart and then come together in the midst of ahead smashing riot where they single each other out as does the camera.

"Getting Straight" is most convincing when zeroing in on individuals, falls when it pulls back to look at the over all scene. There is the hophead, lovable when high but actually a reactionary militant when he is briefly clean.

There is the black militant with a single ax to grind and the too -- comfortable publicity man trying to hold back the waves.

The whole campus (filmed at a community college in Oregon), the people on it too often have the scrubbed, artificial look of Joe College pictures of yesteryear.

The climactic revolution, when it ultimately happens, is a meaningless though action-filled affair. The camera lingers gruesomely on every headrcrushing blow, like a well-staged scene in a war movie.

But why are the students in revolt? The film says it is over more liberal dormitory hours and a black study program but can this really be all? Against the background of the Kent tragedy it is difficult to accept such simplistic arguments.

In the end. "Getting Straight" emerges as a movie that is more entertaining than it is convincing. It is a film that panders to youth rather than serving it. It is slick, glib and tricky. The camera keeps focusing and re-focusing, a manipulative trick to lead your eye in and out of a scene just as the entire film is one long manipulation of material.