Shock, M, 115 Mins
Late great writer/director/producer Paul Mazursky’s somewhat forgotten fourth feature from back in 1974 is less of an ‘Issue’ movie (see his 1969 début Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and 1978’s feminist drama An Unmarried Woman) and more an episodic Road Movie that confronts major themes in a subtle, often funny fashion, and with late great star Art Carney centre stage in his Oscar-winning performance.
Carney’s widower Harry is a New York native who seems to be in his 70s (although Art was actually in his late 50s), adores his beloved ginger cat Tonto and is facing eviction from his apartment due to what looks like the beginning of the cleaning-up of the seedy Big Apple back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Harry is forced to live for a time with his son Burt (Phil Bruns), but is soon itching to get away, and opts to take a slightly chaotic trip to Chicago and beyond with Tonto in tow, ostensibly to see his daughter Shirley (Ellen Burstyn) but mainly to investigate America’s heartland in the middle of those messy ‘70s.
However, this isn’t quite some ‘New Hollywood’ epic that tries to depict a jaundiced America at war with itself but, instead, a wry, melancholic dramatic comedy that’s primarily about getting old, as Harry meets a wide range of characters including teen runaway Ginger (Melanie Mayron), who clicks with Harry’s goofy grandson Norman (Joshua Mostel), as well as Sam Two Feathers (Chief Dan George) and (quite late on) no less than the late great Larry Hagman, who’s very fine as Eddie, yet another of Harry’s adult children.
And yet this is really all about Carney, who’s magnificent as Harry and manages to depict this senior citizen as tolerant, grumpy, bemused, kind and stubbornly impossible all at once, as well as a man who loves his cat and goes everywhere with it, walking the cranky old puss (actually two cranky old pusses during filming) like a dog on a leash.