A teenage girl is put under pressure from her parents to restrain her sexual desires while her boyfriend’s equally domineering family have plans for his future that do not involve her. As they are pushed apart, she ends up in a mental hospital.
Warren Beatty couldn’t have had a better start to his movie career than this, with collaborators such as co-star Natalie Wood and director Elia Kazan.
Beatty and Wood play star-crossed lovers Deanie and Bud in playwright William Inge’s tragi-romantic screenplay, set in a 1920s Kansas that boasts none of the homeliness that Dorothy experienced in The Wizard of Oz.
The young couple who spend the film attempting to cross the sexual morality divide are too easily dominated by interfering parents (Audrey Christie and Pat Hingle) so that what should be splendid is seen to be squalid.
Repression is everywhere in this movie, a force that twists people in monstrous, dysfunctional directions. Men are obliged to be successful and macho, while women must choose between virginity and whorishness—as is the case for Bud’s unconventional flapper sister, Ginny (Barbara Loden).
The psychology may be simplistic, but the powerful portrayals from the cast – especially from Beatty – make that weakness seem like an irrelevance.
Wilma Dean Loomis