Friday, July 5, 2013

Goodbye, Columbus, The Quintessential Movie of My Generation

[Goodbye, Columbus, movie review]

I've certainly not seen every movie made during my years of living, so someday I may feel differently but, for now, Goodbye, Columbus is the quintessential movie of my generation. Nothing I've seen with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, or any other actor comes close to qualifying. Their movies are genre movies for the most part and do not reflect the essence of my generation's cultural concerns. Goodbye, Columbus does so in spades.

Goodbye, Columbus works on several levels. It portrays the American version of the class system. It reflects my generation's concern with authenticity. It asks the question "Who's responsible for birth control?" It even dips into racial relations. And it all works together brilliantly. The movie is a close version of the novella by Philip Roth, a story I read and reread several times in my youth.

In some ways it's stereotypical: the frivolous rich versus the  self-conscious middle class. But the psychological precision of the conflict between Neil and Brenda, who "love" each other, raises it to a universal level. These are two people who love each other for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps they don't really know what love is.

And which person is responsible for birth control, the man or the woman?  This is not an irrelevant question even today. I think today, we'd say both are responsible, but back then it was assumed that the woman would be. The pill had liberated women and given them control. So it was their responsibility. At least that the way it was in the early years. In reality, it still may be so.

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