As the days go by, I’m becoming more and more willing to just go through a random actor’s history and pick lesser-known films they’ve starred in. Today’s subject is Jeff Goldblum in one of his earliest roles. Between the Lines encapsulates a slice-of-life-like moment in history that was well before my time. Due to this, I instantly became intrigued (also Jeff Goldblum).
“The staff of the Back Bay Mainline, a Boston underground newspaper that rose to prominence in the 1960s, struggles with the shifting social climate of the ’70s amid rumors that the paper is about to be sold to a media giant.”
It takes a while to get things going here. Taking in all the opening scenes, my immersion struggled to will itself into the world with the characters. Doesn’t help that it quickly introduces a large cast of characters almost all at once.
After a point, the more “important” characters begin to take up more screentime, and the pacing more smoothly follows a trail of interpersonal conflicts. Most things revolve around a newspaper publication, used as the basis for a variety of things—connections, pride, camaraderie, social commentary, and so forth. Whatever may occur with the workers, they can be sure that the paper is what continues to drive them.
If this seems a little hard to follow or too floundering, that’s because it is. Even as the characters began to find themselves and became more sympathetic, the plot sort of glides around looking for something to gnaw on. It reminds me somewhat of The Daytrippers in its atmosphere, except where that had a clear point for a majority of its runtime, this steps in and out of a “central” focus. What carries the entertainment value is the cast, without question.
Though I cannot say for certain how old these people are, most seemed relatively young. Perhaps late twenties, early thirties. Around the point where I am in my life… even if I feel I have a much better grip of my situation as anyone here does. Some themes of self-worth and motivation, the desire to go out and be more than what you currently are, was deeply empathetic to me. At the same time, the way these characters interact with their current situations seems destined to go awry.
Did I like any of the characters? To be frank, I’m not sure how greatly I’ll even remember most of them within a month’s time. Jeff Goldblum’s was memorable if only because it’s Jeff Goldblum. John Heard’s was memorable for his cocky attitude shielding a sensitive soul underneath. Others fare better more for their decisions than their character, like a couple clearly on the outs that can’t seem to quit each other for different reasons.
The trailer above has someone quoted calling this a coming of age story, only the characters are already grown. I can see where they’re coming from, but what can we make from that? Rather than coming of age, it’s like facing hard realities. The turmoil of a changing culture, realizing that different people want different things, and money really does make the world go ’round. From that perspective, there’s some worth in viewing this, even if for that alone.
In the end, for me, the more pleasurable components came from good character motivation and the interactions they had with one another. Structurally, I didn’t find it had enough “oomph” to make as much impact in more politically focused observations as it did developing people into people. For those that did shine, they were fully realized in ways that reflect the youth at the time (probably). That realism keeps this afloat.
Definitely solid on a few points, though never fully realizes them enough to have this become a smash. Characters allow this to be as heartfelt as it can be, even if they end up somewhat sanitizing the aimless story. If nothing else, you can enjoy some vintage ’70s soundtrack along with it, if that’s your thing.
Final Score: 6/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!
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Thank you for your time. Have a great rest of your day.