The Grasshopper (1970)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Melodrama  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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This time capsule from the dawn of the New Hollywood era is a surprisingly potent little riff on the showbiz expose. At first, The Grasshopper seems like a mix of an old-fashioned women's picture and a Jacqueline Susann potboiler but it surprises the viewer by bringing unusual shadings to familiar melodramatic conceits. Its depiction of the showbiz milieu comes off as well-observed and witty (a highlight is a Las Vegas party scene depicting the interactions of several hangers-on in a pithy style) and it edges its way into darker, despairing narrative territory in a way that manages to sneak up on the audience. Director Jerry Paris's style is dramatic and visually expressive, offsetting the narrative's dramatic shifts with flashy visuals and a fragmented editing style that gives the proceedings an tense, fast-paced quality one normally doesn't get from this kind of film. Better yet, he gets excellent performances from a unique cast: Jacqueline Bisset delivers the expected movie-star charm but also gradually brings out the destructive elements of her character with impressive subtlety while Jim Brown turns in a nicely understated performance as her most notable lover and Ed Flanders steals a few scenes as a pushy, fast-talking casino boss. In short, The Grasshopper might be a melodrama but it has a bite to it that might surprise the unexpecting viewer and is thus worth a look to cult-film aficionados.