The Christian Licorice Store (1971)

christian licorice store 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: He searches for answers.

Cane (Beau Bridges) is a successful tennis player who has a close bond with Jonathan (Gilbert Roland) his mentor/coach who at one time during the 30’s was a tennis star himself. Things seem to be going well for him both on and off the court. He even starts fitting in with the chic Hollywood crowd and invited to some of their swanky parties. He meets Cynthia (Maude Adams) a beautiful photographer and their relationship begins to sizzle. Then Jonathan dies suddenly in his sleep and the emptiness in Cane’s life and the people in it come to a head. He begins searching for meaning and finds nothing, which eventually drives him away from his girlfriend, career and life in general.

The film was directed by James Frawley who is the son of actor William Frawley best known for his portrayal of Fred Mertz on the old ‘I Love Lucy’ episodes. James himself dabbled in acting a bit before turning to directing, but proves here to be completely in over-his-head. The attempt to replicate the French new wave type of filmmaking that had become so trendy at that time and done quite well by accomplished directors like Jean Luc Goddard and Michelangelo Antonioni is a disastrous dud and all the more reason why the artsy stuff should stay with the Europeans who have a better handle on it. From the very first shot forward this thing limps along with no pace, story or momentum. The cinema verite-styled takes go on for too long without enough visual flair to help carry it. The perceived ‘sophistication’ is nothing but an empty façade and an embarrassment to watch making it no wonder that the studio shelved this thing for 2 years before finally letting it out to a limited release.

Bridges does well, but the material offers him little to work with. Adams is surprisingly strong and this may be one of her best performances in an otherwise overlooked career. Silent film star Roland is solid as well particularly with the discussion he has with the two leads about aging and the quick passage of time, but he exits the story too quickly. Legendary French director Jean Renoir is the ultimate scene stealer even though he is only in it for less than five minutes, but clearly shows in that brief period how to own the screen and make the most of it in an almost effortless fashion.

The only thing that I liked about this sleep inducing 90-minute bore and actually even found original is the party scene where Beau meets up with several famous directors of the day including Monte Hellman and Theodore J. Flicker. The camera pans between several different side conversations of the various groups of people there and then everyone goes into a small theater to screen a new film where they then watch the opening credits to this film that they are all in, which I found to be kind of cool.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 15, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: James Frawley

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: None at this time.

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