Butterflies are Free (1972)

Butterflies are Free (1972)

Synopsis:

Against the wishes of his domineering mother (Eileen Heckart, The Bad Seed), a blind young man, Don (Edward Albert, 40 Carats), leases an apartment in downtown San Francisco. He wants to prove to his mother, and himself, that he can survive on his own. Don befriends a flighty teenager, Jill (Goldie Hawn, Private Benjamin), and they immediately form an emotional bond to the dismay of Don’s mother.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Entertaining comedy-drama based upon Leonard Gershe’s popular 1969 stage play of the same name. There is no attempt to open up the play and there is no need to — the dialogue is funny and the actors are excellent.

Directed by Milton Kastelas (Report to the Commissioner), Butterflies are Free is submerged in counter-culture milieu, but the story deals with universal issues. If you eliminate a few phrases, the story could easily be adapted to modern times. Generational gap, individualism vs conformity, etc., are things that are still discussed today. The old saying is true: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

As I suggested before, Butterflies are Free is almost entirely set in one location, but it never feels claustrophobic — it was nicely shot by veteran Charles B. Lang (The Magnificent Seven and Wait Until Dark). The snappy dialogue, energetic performances, and smooth editing keep things moving at a brisk pace.

The three protagonists are superb. Goldie Hawn is a total delight in a role that fits perfectly with her screen persona; it’s one of her very best performances.

Hawn is finely supported by Edward Albert (Eddie Albert’s son) and Eileen Heckart. It’s hard to believe that this was Albert’s second movie (his first as an adult) — he looks comfortable in front of the camera. Heckart won a well-deserved Oscar for her performance. She turns the stereotypical abrasive mother into a real human being. Heckart also delivers the film’s funniest lines. Paul Michael Glaser (TV’s Stasky and Hutch) plays a theater director.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Butterflies are Free is a wise, charming and tender comedy-drama; a total delight from beginning to end. Color, 109 minutes, Rated PG.

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