Ragtime (1981)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Americana, Ensemble Film, Period Film  |   Release Date - Nov 20, 1981 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 155 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Milos Forman's Ragtime offers a gorgeous recreation of turn-of-the-century suburban New York, from the immaculate sets and costumes down to the terrific ragtime score by Randy Newman. The novel's complex social tapestry --which weaves together several intriguing storylines -- is here ultimately winnowed down by director Forman and writer Michael Weller to a black man's inevitably tragic pursuit of justice, thereby resulting in the significant diminishment of Doctorow's challenging and acutely critical themes. Despite this weakness, the dominant narrative is effectively presented and the film builds to a morally ambiguous and compelling climax. The film marked the return to the silver screen of the legendary James Cagney after a twenty year absence, but the acting plaudits here go to Elizabeth McGovern and Howard Rollins Jr., both of whom earned supporting actor nominations at the Academy Awards for their sensitive and powerful work. While Ragtime is not one of Forman's best films, it was recognized by the Academy with nine nominations (though it won none).