Director John Schlesinger reins in Shirley MacLaine's penchant for scenery-chewing in this story of a young piano prodigy (Navin Chowdhry) and his eccentric mentor. There's very little scenery for MacLaine to chew: set against the drab backdrop of London's suburbs, the film divides its time among the many characters in the boy's life, from his opportunistic mother (Shabana Azmi) to Sousatzka's leggy neighbor (Twiggy). Ultimately, Sousatzka is a parable pitting old world values against new world pressures, but Schlesinger and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (best known for her Merchant-Ivory adaptations) refrain from the treacly, teacher-pupil sermonizing of To Sir, with Love or the later Mr. Holland's Opus. The result is a refreshingly smaller film than most of MacLaine's Hollywood work, which may explain why the perennial Oscar nominee was passed over that year.
by Michael Hastings review