a/perture Cinema, CBS, Edward Hermann, Gilmore Girls, IMDb, John Houseman, Lindsay Wagner, Netflix, Rotten Tomatoes, Showtime, The Less Desirables, The Lost Boys, The Paper Chase, Timothy Bottoms, Wheelers Dog
The Paper Chase (1973) is The Less Desirables Movie of the Week brought to you by a/perture Cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables. It stars Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, John Houseman and Edward Hermann.
Per IMDb: “A first-year law student at Harvard Law School struggles with balancing his coursework and his relationship with the daughter of his sternest professor.”
The film tells the story of James Hart (Bottoms), a first-year law student at Harvard Law School, the troubles he has with with Professor Charles Kingsfield (Houseman) a tough-as-nails contract law instructor and the clandestine relationship he has with Kingsfield’s daughter, Susan Fields.
The first day of class, generally a course outline day, Kingsfield asks Hart a question and when he becomes flustered and humiliated, he ends up running tot he bathroom to throw up. He’s invited to join a study group consisting of five others that are in the law program and they split up duties for learning. Some are better than others, some crack under pressure and some are just a-holes.
Hankering for pizza, Hart is picked up by Susan Fields (Wagner). To say their relationship is difficult is an understatement; she doesn’t understand the time he devotes to his studies and he is frustrated that she won’t commit to the relationship. He finds out why soon. Hart and his classmates are invited to a cocktail party that Kingsfield hosts every year for his students. Susan is there. He is stunned to discover that Susan is Kingsfield’s married daughter. She explains to him that she is, however, separated from her husband. She and Hart break up… several times. She even has him to her father’s house, once, to have a rendezvous and the professor comes home. Then they break up more. To escape the crazy that the relationship brings, he delves deeper into his studies.
At one point Hart becomes frustrated with the professor and gives a facetious and flippant answer and the professor offers him a dime telling him to call his mother and tell her that he’s not going to be a lawyer. Hart calls him a son-of-a-biscuit eater and starts to walk out. The professor agrees with him and tells him to sit down. One of the study group tried to kill themselves and drops from school. Another quits the group and one more is ejected. Studying for the final exam, Hart and one of his group partners that is still left hole-up in a hotel and basically ransack it over the course of three days whilst studying. As to whether or not Hart passes or whether or not he ends up with Susan, you’ll have to watch to see.
I remember the television show, not from CBS, but from Showtime. We didn’t have Showtime but it was available at my grandmother’s house and I remember ads for it. I’ve always known John Houseman from that more than anything, even though I’ve seen him in other things. It was really cool to see Ed Hermann in a role from when he was that young. Of course I’m most familiar with him from Gilmore Girls and just a few weeks ago, I reviewed him in The Lost Boys. And Lindsay Wagner is quite hot in this film.
The story moves at a moderate pace and would probably fail Eugene‘s E20, but I just don’t see him as a fan of college dramas. I love the thought of university life and this film really appealed to me, especially once it started. I love law school dramas because I’m quite interested in law. The interaction between the students in the study group is at times dynamic, at times hostile and at times the calm before the storm. The tension between teacher and student is a great dramatic journey. You have to admire both Kingsfield’s stern and uncompromising stance and Hart’s rise from timid church mouse to tenacious hunter and that adds to that dynamic. I enjoyed the story, I enjoyed watching where and how Susan’s and Hart’s journey was taking them, I enjoyed the ending.
I recommend this film if you are one for dramas (and usually I am not). I recommend it on the cast and the acting, too. Rotten Tomatoes has it rated at 85% Fresh with an audience score of 71%. It was directed by James Bridges who also wrote the screenplay. I watched this on Netflix and rate it 4 stars. Have you seen the film? Do you agree with my assessment and review? Hit me up on any of the social media avenues and let me know. What movies would you like me to review? Let me know!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer.” – Professor Charles W. Kingfield, Jr. (John Houseman)