Looking for Mr. Goodbar (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Looking for Mr. Goodbar is a 1977 American drama film written for the screen and directed by Richard Brooks, starring Diane Keaton, Tuesday Weld, Richard Gere, Richard Kiley and Tom Berenger. The film is based on Judith Rossner's 1975 novel of the same name, which was inspired by the 1973 murder of New York City schoolteacher Roseann Quinn.

The film was a financial and critical success, and garnered Weld an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.



The film traces the sexual awakening of Theresa Dunn, a young teacher of Irish American descent who is searching for excitement outside her ordered life, in which she teaches deaf children. Suffering from severe body image issues following a childhood surgery that left a large scar on her back, Theresa finds first love with her older, married university professor, Martin, who ends the affair just before her graduation. The affair leaves Theresa feeling used, and she begins daydreaming about being reunited with her professor.

Theresa enters the sexual revolution of the 1970s feeling confused, as she is simultaneously repulsed by and attracted to the sexual experimentation she sees going on around her. Although she continues to teach by day, developing a reputation as a gifted and caring teacher to deaf children, at night she goes clubbing at a series of increasingly seedy bars, picking up men for one-night stands. In Rossner's novel, Theresa's recreational sexual encounters slowly become an addiction, and she pursues more dangerous men with violent sexual proclivities to enhance her "high"; the film version of the character takes a lighter approach. In one scene, Theresa notes that most of her sexual encounters, while not violent, were with men who had merely odd or funny quirks. She views her one-night stands with shady low-lifes as a way to provide excitement to her otherwise ordinary life. She is careful not to allow any of her encounters to become serious, and has a "house rule" that her paramours must leave before daybreak. She sets an alarm clock to remind the men to leave, in case either of them falls asleep.

An encounter with a street hustler named Tony develops into a nascent relationship, and the two begin regularly meeting for increasingly rough and dangerous sex. Tony introduces use of a switchblade knife into their sex play. Meanwhile, Theresa attempts to date a welfare caseworker named James, whom her family holds up as the paragon of a good Irish-American boy. The relationship quickly falters, as James wants a "normal" middle-class relationship, which Theresa sees as stifling her "freedom". He also appears to be just as controlling and disrespectful of her as Tony was. In addition, she tries two pills that sedate her, making her sleep until the next workday, which sees her come late to the resentment of her employer and students.

Theresa ultimately breaks up with Tony, who stalks and harasses her outside the school where she works, until the older brother of one of her students beats him up. With the new year approaching, Theresa resolves to leave her clubbing and drug use behind and take control of her life. Seeking one final hookup on New Year's Eve, Theresa picks up a man named Gary, a sexually confused Vietnam War veteran who has just parted ways with his gay lover but tells Theresa he has a pregnant wife in Florida. At Theresa's apartment, Gary finds himself unable to attain an erection. Theresa asks him to leave, per her "house rule," which Gary misinterprets as questioning his sexuality. In a rage, Gary attacks her and begins beating and raping her. He stabs her to death. The films ends with each remaining heartbeat bringing some light to her face, before the screen fades to black.



The film's soundtrack included numerous disco tracks from the era. A soundtrack album was released by Columbia Records (JS 35029).

  1. "Theme from Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow)" – Carol Connors and Artie Kane
  2. "Don't Leave Me This Way" – Thelma Houston
  3. "Lowdown" – Boz Scaggs
  4. "Machine Gun" – Commodores
  5. "Love Hangover" – Diana Ross
  6. "She Wants to (Get on Down)" – Bill Withers
  7. "Theme from Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow) [Reprise]"– Carol Connors and Artie Kane
  8. "Theme from Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow) [Vocal]" – Carol Connors and Artie Kane; vocal by Marlena Shaw
  9. "She's Lonely" – Bill Withers
  10. "Try Me, I Know We Can Make It" – Donna Summer
  11. "Back Stabbers" – The O'Jays
  12. "Prelude to Love" – Donna Summer
  13. "Could It Be Magic" – Donna Summer


The film opened to mostly good reviews and solid box office. Some critics praised Keaton's performance. Some found the film lurid and muddled; a review by Frank Rich for Time magazine criticized Brooks for making "many crude miscalculations" in adapting the novel, and the review was titled "Diane in the Rough". Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, praising Keaton's performance but lamenting the "many loose ends and dead ends", some of which he blamed on significant alterations to the novel's plot. John Simon noted that while the novel is set in New York City, the film is said to be located in San Francisco (but identifiably filmed in Chicago's Rush Street neighborhood). He also noted that "the main character is made considerably prettier, thus reducing the principal sources of her insecurity," as compared to her portrayal in the novel.

As of March, 2016, the movie has 75% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Robert O. Friedel, MD, has suggested that Theresa's behavior in the film is consistent with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Looking for Mr. Goodbar introduced Richard Gere, LeVar Burton, and Tom Berenger, as men whom Theresa encounters.


Weld received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and William A. Fraker received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

Keaton was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama. She was not nominated for an Academy Award for this film, but she won the same year for Annie Hall.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Looking for Mr. Goodbar (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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