Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

November 11, 2014 at 5:14pm

Onscreen at Olympia Film Festival: "Straight Time" (1978)

Hoffman plays an ex-con trying to walk the straight and narrow in "Straight Time."

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Once upon a time, the city streets in movies belonged to Dustin Hoffman. See him in Midnight Cowboy, his hobbling Ratso bellowing "I'm walkin' heah!" to a careless downtown cabbie; cradling his injured son while sprinting blocks to find the nearest ER in Kramer Vs. Kramer; emerging for the first time in drag on a crowded sidewalk as Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie. In his most iconic roles, the diminutive actor stood for the Everyman dwarfed by a bleak, towering cityscape.

Hoffman has settled into this gritty milieu once again in Straight Time, which played Monday at the Capitol Theater (projected from what the old-timers used to call "35mm") as part of the 31st Olympia Film Festival. First-time OFF Programming Director Kelly Lux finds this trip back to 1978 a treat.

"I really like Seventies films," says Lux, proud to bring this "hidden gem" to a 2014 audience. Olympia Film Society board member Byron Zarp agrees, with the goal always to select films that will appeal to all ages.

Hoffman's Max Dembo, a parolee just released after a six-year stint in the state pen for burglary, combs the streets of Los Angeles with a look of steely resolve, hungry for work, a home, freedom from his past and the untrusting gaze of his parole officer (played by M. Emmet Walsh). An initially friendly reunion with old friend Willy (an impossibly young and subdued Gary Busey) turns sour when Willy's girlfriend (Kathy Bates) politely asks Max to stay away from her family.

Max's resolve to reform unfortunately gets cut short, when an act of violence on a highway literally changes the film's gears and the story heads off in a new direction without looking back. Straight Time spends its latter half as an often tense, though ultimately standard cops-and-robbers flick. I preferred the first part, with its bitter message of life beyond prison walls revealing its own terrors. Attempting to go straight isn't hard time, but it ain't easy either.

Straight Time is available on Netflix.

LINK: 31st Olympia Film Festival schedule

SEE ALSO

Weekly Volcano previews the Olympia Film Festival

Filed under: Screens, Olympia,
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