A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
“Bobby Deerfield” is a big, slick melodrama that knows exactly what it wants to accomplish and does so with great craft. It doesn't in the process distinguish itself as a great movie, but what were we expecting? It's a tasteful collection of clichés, brought to life by skillful acting and directing, with all sorts of good stuff in it: Al Pacino and Marthe Keller, auto racing and a beautiful woman dying tragically, lots of wistful music and the landscapes of France, Italy and Switzerland.
At the movie’s end, to be sure, we don’t exactly know these two heroic people -- the racing driver and the young woman, each facing death with silent courage. We don't know them because the movie doesn't intend them as three-dimensional human beings. It sees them as icons, as profiles, as attitudes, as memorable lines of dialog, as parts of breathtaking scenes and heartbreaking conversations.
And what's wrong with that? I sat through the first half of “Bobby Deerfield” blaming it for its tear-jerking, and the second half admiring it for the same thing. It's what people call a movie movie, right down to the touching characters in the supporting roles. And it is not, thank God, a racing picture. Nothing gets boring more quickly than endless shots of expensive cars zipping past the camera so fast you can hardly read the Marlboro decals. But “Bobby Deerfield” has only two racing sequences, both important to the plot, both stunningly well-handled.
For the rest, there is that romance between Al Pacino and Marthe Keller. He's self-centered, vain, selfish, surrounded by yes-men and easy women. She's a character: funny, unpredictable, teasing… and dying, apparently, of Ali MacGraw's Disease -- the one where you get thinner and more beautiful, and everything you say comes out like a line too good for Rod McKuen.