DARLING won 25-year-old newcomer Julie Christie the Oscar as Best Actress, drew critical praise and was the 18th most-seen film of its year. The British Invasion was in full bloom, but among a crop of ripe treats, this bleak, bitter, black & white ‘bird’ was the sourest apple of 1965.*
‘Mod’ model ‘Diana’ (Christie) pursues fame and status through a succession of London’s socially connected men, finding emptiness all around, and in what passes for her core. Unrelenting tedious amorality and pretense for 128 minutes, with not a sympathetic character in sight. Around the 65-minute mark Christie and Dirk Bogarde have a brief argument that has enough energy to jolt you awake. They’re both good—she’s excellent throughout, and Laurence Harvey adds another cruel portrait to his gallery of cads. You might squeeze a jot of empathy for Christie considering her choices—cold cod Bogarde and venomous barracuda Harvey– were about as appealing as British cuisine. Acting acumen or personality picks aside, for a story about a ‘beautiful’ person, as written and directed, this is one ugly wallow. ‘Frank” doesn’t equal fun: there were dozens of more entertaining movies that year.
Oscar winner for the Screenplay (by Frederic Raphael, who would do a much more bearable job dissecting relationships with Two For The Road), it also took the statue for Costume Design and was nominated as Best Picture and for director John Schlesinger. Schlesinger’s style is cold, his work is condescending. He was once quoted “I quite like the idea of wiping the smiles off people’s faces”—-watching this you can believe it: his roster of movies is about as unhappy a lot as you can find. Christie was rocketed, also on view, teasingly in Young Cassidy, rapturously beautiful in Doctor Zhivago. Produced for a lean $1,100,000, it grossed $12,000,000. With José Luis de Villalonga, Roland Curram and Basil Henson.
* 1965 passports from Britain unloaded Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in The Sound Of Music, Sean Connery’s Thunderball, The Beatles in Help!, Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar in The Collector and Michael Caine’s The Ipcress File. There was What’s New Pussycat?, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Liquidator and She. Turn on the transistor radio and you’d get no”Satisfaction”, go “Downtown” and frug to Tom Jones, The Kinks and The Dave Clark Five. The Avengers livened up TV.