The best thing about watching movies is that no matter how many you see, you will never see them all. But there’s nothing as satisfying as discovering the one you can’t believe you missed. Recently that happened to me with a film by Milos Forman (best known for Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). I’ve seen so many of Forman’s films but had never run across his 1971 effort, Taking Off.
Taking Off was the first picture Forman made in the U.S. and it’s easily one of the most refreshing pieces I’ve seen in the last few years. The film follows a married couple (played by Buck Henry and Lynn Carlin) searching for their runaway daughter. The story inter-cuts creatively between their experience and an exposé of a new generation coming alive at an “audition.” Taking Off poses some unique questions that still feel completely alive and relevant today. Can two worlds share an inner discovery together or is every new generation too disconnected from the conventions of yesteryear?
Milos Forman finds wonderful ways to let the elements of his story breath and does a remarkable job commanding what I believe to be his signature trait: crowd scenes. Only in his films do scenes with over 50 people look so intimately real, allowing you to engage in simple colorful actions between how we sit and observe each other. With Taking Off, the atmosphere is purposefully an expressive one, and somehow every actor appears as important as the other. Even the musical cameos fit like a glove. I never expected to see a young Kathy Bates singing like I did here:
Taking Off is funny, dramatic, and touchingly outlandish. I hope you can take a moment to seek it out. It’s a unique piece of social commentary and I hope it continues to get discovered by the kids to come. As evident in the clip below, this film is all about trying to relate: