The Paper Chase
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Expecting only the basic pressures of attending Harvard Law School, a serious, hard-working student (Timothy Bottoms) finds himself the fearful adversary of the school's most imperious, sarcastic professor (John Houseman). Their relationship grows even more complex when the boy discovers that the girl he's in love with is the professor's daughter (Lindsay Wagner). Edward Herrmann and James Naughton co-star in this moving, intelligent drama.
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One odd thing: on the back of the CD insert which describes the film a bit, it says "Knightsfield," rather than "Kingsfield."
In a way that would prevent the film from being made today, the plot moves slowly and not all that much really happens. It's mostly about the student, James Hart (Timothy Bottoms) inner life, his expectations and ability to cope with the pressures of Harvard Law. In one of those fortuitous Hollywood flukes, Houseman, who had primarily been a producer, was cast only after many actors turned down the role, and ended up with a whole second career as an actor even though he was in his seventies. Though it's mainly his show, Timothy Bottoms holds his end up well and creates a winning and sympathetic character as "Mr. Hart". Lindsay Wagner plays Susan, the love interest, a part either undrewritten or written in such a way as to be at odds with herself, does as well as she can with a small part.
The film is shot in a naturalistic way that makes much of it seem like a documentary, especially scenes of the classroom and dorm life.For those who went to college during the time shown, all will be familiar. For younger viewers there will be many surprises: the long hair on the male students, the fact they take notes on paper in notebooks, and most of all the dorm, where there is one pay phone for all the students on the floor, who line up to use it.
Yes it is well acted, and it gives insight to a realm that few could ever see in person. It is a film worthy of accolades. However, there is little sentimentality and no character to love. Most are privileged and shallow, some are just mean or without feeling, and only one has any values worth praising.
The movie is wonderful, the characters all are interesting and the interactions among the various characters is riveting. Once you have seen this movie, you will realize that you have just witnessed an actual chain of events, despite the claim that the film is a work of fiction.
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