Beautifully-directed by Alan Pakula in that strange, isolated, stereotypical 1960's-flick style, 'The Sterile Cuckoo' tells the bittersweet, emotionally macabre tale of anally-retentive college freshman Jerry Payne (Wendell Burton), and his intense relationship with the scatterbrained, maniacal Pookie Adams (Liza Minnelli), an enigmatic and energetic girl with a sad past.
Liza's first Oscar nomination was very thoroughly deserved. Even as late as 1969 the Oscars were not yet the meaningless PR-Fest that we now know them to be, and it's nominations for odd, thought-provoking performances like Minnelli's, here, that restores our faith in that system. She's absorbing and heart-wrenching, infuriating and devastating, all at the same time. Her perfect foil comes in the guise of the extremely skillfull performance turned in by Wendell Burton, in the role of her hapless boyfriend Jerry. He's the ideal contrast to Minnelli's mania, and though we are oftentimes infuriated by his apathy, we can't help but simultaneously sympathise with him.
Pakula's direction is excellent. The vistas are beautiful; simple and isolated, with so much 'New England' jumping from the screen as to make you all but feel the leaves crunching beneath your feet. The sparse countryside, punctuated by violent outbursts of colour, is the perfect metaphor for the central relationship, and Pakula makes extremely clever use of this in the scenes of Pookie and Jerry's early relationship.
A classic slice of 60's ideal surrealism, this is a beautifully-crafted, emotionally absorbing movie that REALLY should be on DVD by now. Highly recommended.
Funny,touching,embroiling(whatever that means...but you know what I mean). Read more