Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977): Richard Brooks’ Cautionary Sex Tale, Starring Diane Keaton and Tuesday Weld in her Only Oscar Nominated Role

Diane Keaton proved her range as an actress when in 1977, the same year she made Woody Allen’s romantic comedy, Annie Hall, she departed from her usual lighthearted comic roles, winning the highly coveted lead in the psych-erotic drama Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

Directed by Richard Brooks, the film stars, in addition to Keaton, Tuesday Weld, and Richard Gere, all in top form is based on the novel of the same name by Judith Rossner, which was in turn based on the real life murder of New York City schoolteacher Roseann Quinn.

The 1977 morality cautionary tale traces the sexual awakening of a young teacher searching for excitement outside of her mundane existence.  The film became nearly prophetic in the early 1980s in the wake of the lethal AIDS crisis.

In the film, she played a Catholic schoolteacher for deaf children, who lives a double life, spending her nights at singles bars, engaging in promiscuous (one-night stands) sex.  Keaton perceived the part as a “psychological case history.”

After an affair with her college professor, no-longer-good Catholic girl Theresa follows the lead of her hedonistic sister (Tuesday Weld, perfectly cast) and moves out of her oppressive family home to forge a life of her own.

Searching for  the “real perfect man,” whom she refers to as “Mr. Goodbar”, she begins losing control of her life as her sexual appetite grows.

Quiet and reserved teacher by day, sexual deviant and bar-hopper by night, Dunn begins to dabble in drugs and unstable men. Her self-destructive behavior is a means of escaping her numbing existence and testing her boundaries and providing excitement in her otherwise safe and boring life.

Dunn prefers the satisfying attentions of unpredictable, danger-tinged stud Tony Lopanto (Richard Gere) to the more noble intentions of social worker James (William Atherton), and she ditches anyone who prevents her from being her “own girl.”

Gere’s sexual partner, a borderline psychotic, turns jealously possessive, and begins to threaten her life. Ultimately, her sexual addiction and high risk behavior put her life in danger.

Tuesday Weld received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress Oscar (her first and only nod) for her performance in the film.

The music video for the Madonna song, “Bad Girl,” was loosely inspired by the film.

Keaton deserved an Oscar nomination for playing compellingly a compassionate teacher of deaf children by day, Theresa metamorphoses into a sexually free cruiser of singles bars by night  But in the same year, she scored even better in Woody Allen’s comedy, Annie Hall, for which she received the Best Actress Oscar.

Time magazine commended her role choice and criticized the restricted roles available for female actors in American films: A male actor can fly a plane, fight a war, shoot a badman, pull off a sting, impersonate a big cheese in business or politics. Men are presumed to be interesting. A female can play a wife, play a whore, get pregnant, lose her baby, and, um, let’s see.  Women are presumed to be dull. … Now a determined trend spotter can point to a handful of new films whose makers think that women can bear the dramatic weight of a production alone, or virtually so. Then there is Diane Keaton in Looking for Mr. Goodbar. As Theresa Dunn, Keaton dominates this raunchy, risky, violent dramatization of Judith Rossner’s 1975 novel.”

Oscar Nominations: 2

Supporting Actress: Tuesday Weld

Cinematography: William A. Fraker

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Supporting Actress Actress was Vanessa Redgrave for “Julia.”

Vilmos Zsigmond won the Cinematography Award for Spielberg’s sci-fi “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

MPAA: R

Running time: 135 minutes.