Midnight Cowboy Film Review
By: Chloe Massoni
Midnight Cowboy is a film about loyalty, coping with life’s adversities, finding family in odd places, accepting the love you are given, and learning of a place in life. Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman give a compelling performance that reaches the audience in a way that will stick with them. This touching film is a must-see for anyone looking to feel with and for the characters on screen. Some people will tell you that this film is disturbing, and though it is true that this film will not leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside, it will leave you feeling thoughtful and reflective.
Jon Voight is committed to his character Joe Buck, an uneducated educated cowboy with a twisted past, a guarded big heart, a desire to make money to live a decent life, and a poor self-esteem and jaded view of sex that tells him the only thing he is good at and the only way he can make money is to sell himself. Dustin Hoffman does a fabulous job as a supporting character, Rico. Hoffman is very convincing in his role as a big-talking loser, lonely and looking for anyone to love him. Rico really makes you feel for him as he bonds with cowboy Joe Buck, making a family for himself. The emotions feel raw and in the moment, making the characters themselves seem very real. John Schlesinger skillfully creates a truthful and meaningful film.
Joe Buck is a Texas man searching for a life, and he believes he will find the life he wants in New York. He believes that sex is nothing more than a physical, lustful act, and desires to go to New York because he has the idea that women in New York are sex-obsessed and will love a cowboy, so they would be more than likely to pay him to have sex with them. Schlesinger’s characterization of Joe, and the practice of objectifying sex, tells the audience that Joe Buck probably has not had healthy experiences with sex in his life. Joe Buck is haunted by flashbacks: intimate moments with his grandmother– massaging her shoulders, sitting in bed between her and her boyfriend, both of them are barely clothed. The director produces a molestation vibe from these flashbacks, and from Joe’s feelings about sex, which clenches the heart and really gets under the audience’s skin. You will feel the wrongness and be unable not to empathize with the lonely cowboy. The director creates a film that seems to resemble real life much more closely than many previously made, which may be why this movie sticks with you so much. Midnight Cowboy represents that life is not strictly white and black– it’s made up of mostly grey matter. The director makes it unclear here who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. When Joe Buck first arrives in New York and needs money for himself to get his suitcase back from his landlord, he decides against robbing a man when he has the chance. Joe Buck’s present conscience is evident of his character and that he has a good heart, because he does not want to hurt the man, or to take from him. Yet, towards the end of the movie when Rico is very sick and wants to get to Miami where it is warm so he will be healthier, Joe Buck robs and kills a man. By black and white standards, we would typically consider this to be a horrible thing, and thus Joe, to be a bad person. However, the contrast between the two scenes in which Joe cannot bring himself to rob someone when the money is for himself, and then when Joe robs and kills the man when he needs the money for Rico’s health, shows that maybe Joe is not such a bad person, just a loyal person who would do anything necessary to protect the people he cares about. This is a film I would absolutely recommend for any young, liberal, movie-goer.