Based on an actual incident, Steven Spielberg's first theatrical feature follows the adventures of a Texas outlaw couple striving to keep their family together by any means necessary. Determined not to lose her child to the authorities, Lou Jean Poplin (Goldie Hawn) gets her obedient convict husband Clovis (William Atherton) to break out of jail and help her kidnap their baby from its foster parents. With hostage Officer Slide (Michael Sacks) in tow, the fugitives head across the plains to Sugarland, Texas, pursued by a flotilla of cop cars. Even though Slide becomes the couple's friend, the Law is bent on capturing its criminal quarry. Even though it was greeted with strong reviews, and Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, and Spielberg won the screenplay prize at the Cannes Film Festival, The Sugarland Express flopped. The young audience that had embraced the challenging tonal shifts of Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider in the late 1960s was no longer so reliably drawn to narrative uncertainties in 1974. The massive success of Spielberg's next picture, the popcorn thriller Jaws (1975), would confirm his suspicion that downbeat films were no longer the way to popular approval.
by Lucia Bozzola synopsis