The Day of the Locust (1975)

The death of dreams in Tinseltown is examined in this often-somber drama as told through the eyes of a naive young artist, Tod Hackett (William Atherton, who would go on to a career of cads and bad guys). In focus is Hackett’s relationship with glamorous wannabe movie star, Faye Greener (Karen Black), who alternately wants attention and hates people; other characters include Faye’s father Harry (Burgess Meredith) and other suitors, such as the nearly invisible Homer Simpson (Donald Sutherland). Crushed idealism seems to rule the day, as the overarching lesson that many people starve looking for fame in Hollywood is drummed into the minds of the viewer over and over again, eventually leading to unpredictable tragedy. It doesn’t help that the characters aren’t terribly appealing – although Atherton’s naif is kind of adorable in an innocence-lost sort of way, but eventually one wonders what the point really is. The ending seems to come from out of nowhere. Many critics thought this was a masterpiece, but perhaps the window of three decades or more is needed to provide the correct perspective.

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