Between the Lines (1977)


The fiercely independent staff members at a Boston newspaper go bananas after they find out that a major publishing company wants to buy the paper.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“All the news behind the news… and some hippie smut.”

Between the Lines is essentially composed of vignettes that aim to memorialize the last days of the “Age of Aquarius.” Without judging or pontificating, the film follows a group of baby-boomers at a point in their lives where they hit a crossroad; Between the Lines is a slice of ’70s Americana filled with pathos and humor.

Directed by Joan Micklin Silver (Crossing Delancey) from a script by Fred Barron and David M. Helpern Jr., Between the Lines uses its setting, a small newspaper, as a microcosm of American society in the late ’70s. The film offers a peek into the exact moment radical idealism was replaced by pragmatic conformism.

Despite the fact that the film seems to be taking place in another galaxy (What is a newspaper? What is disco?), Between the Lines remains an engaging production because it taps into so many universal truths: the yearning for love and validation, the fleeting nature of happiness, etc. The film’s free-form style also makes it feel modern — the episodic narrative reminded me of today’s serialized TV dramas.

Between the Lines is loaded with talent. The actors play mostly cultural archetypes, but the fabulous chemistry between the actors holds the movie together — every single actor, down to the smallest roles, fits every role perfectly.

Top billed Stephen Collins (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) is a little bland, but John Heard (Cutter’s Way and Home Alone), in his film debut, is excellent as the paper’s top writer. Lindsay Crouse (Places in the Heart and House of Games) is also great as Heard’s on/off girlfriend and the paper’s ace photographer.

Jeff Goldblum (Th Fly) nearly steals the film as a music critic who uses his profession to bed anything that moves. Goldblum is such a natural actor that he always gives the impression that he is improvising. His loosey-goosey acting style is perfect for the film’s rambling, aimless structure. Director Micklin Silver probably sensed that Goldblum was stealing the movie because she handed the finale to the actor on a silver plate.

The rest of the cast includes Bruno Kirby (When Harry Met Sally), Gwen Welles (Nashville), Joe Morton (The Brother from Another Planet) and Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde). Marilu Henner (TV’s Taxi) has a small role as a stripper. Blink and you’ll miss future “scream queen” Adrienne King (Friday the 13th). That is Douglas Kenney, famed writer and co-founder of the legendary National Lampoons magazine, sitting next to Goldblum at the end of the movie.  

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

There is an old saying, “hippies of the 1960s became yuppies in the 1980s,” and this film shows us why/how this happened. Between the Lines is at once a celebration of the counterculture and a bittersweet Valentine to the attitudes and ideals that defined a generation. While not exactly high art, the film is a great time-capsule — the cast alone makes the movie worthwhile. Color, 101 minutes, Rated R.

This is my contribution to The Jeff Goldblum Blogathon, hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews.

15 responses to “Between the Lines (1977)

  1. Pingback: The 2nd Day of the Jeff Goldblum Blogathon has Landed – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more·

  2. Terrific review, I think Max Arloft is a great Goldblum character, and Jeff’s performance is in some ways a blueprint for the jaded journalist he later played in The Big Chill.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This does sound like a film I would enjoy. The cast looks and sounds great. Good old Jeff Goldblum. It’s surprising how many films he’s been in and they go back quite far. “The Fly” was the first time I saw him and stamped his name in the memory banks., I had seen “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” but didn’t know who he was. Remember being completely shocked when Mel Smith’s “The Tall Guy” came out and thinking what the heck is he doing in this budget Brit film. I fell in love with that film. It’s really very quirky and has a bonkers sex scene lol. It’s a very sweet film.
    Back to “Between The Lines”. Great write up EB. I do have a fondness for those “time capsule” films and I see it’s got Bruno Kirby too, he always cracked me up in City Slickers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Death Wish introduced me to Goldblum (I believe he plays one of the rapists!!!). He has had a long and varied career. Funny how he has become a beloved cult figure! Sad about Bruno Kirby — he died too soon. I think he and Goldblum were pals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes of course Death Wish, forgot about that one too. Bet he wishes it’s forgotten too LOL. Remember he popped up in The Right Stuff we mentioned the other day. Though I don’t think I knew he was “Jeff Goldblum” until I saw The Fly.
        Yes very sad about Bruno Kirby. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never even heard of this one…a complete blank, and with all those stars, you’d think I would’ve at least stumbled across it at some point. And funny how Goldblum was stealing the show even then!

    Liked by 1 person

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