This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
The ads for "The Sterile Cuckoo" remind us that you can fall in love for the first time only once in your life. True enough, but that begs the question of whether Pookie and Jerry are really in love. I doubt it. Their relationship is based more on need: her need to be loved, and his need to make love.
When they're able to fulfill their needs simultaneously, they convince themselves they're in love. But making love is not the same thing as giving love, and the movie is about how they gradually figure that out. It shouldn't take them as long as it does, but Pookie is so neurotically dependent that she hangs on much too long. And Jerry is slow. Stupid might be a better word.
Both characters are presented as freshmen in college, having their first love affair. They're awfully normal kids, at least in exterior ways. They go to aggressively typical colleges in upstate New York, where the biggest thing on campus is a fraternity beer party. They wear college sweatshirts and their hair short. When it comes time for them to consummate their affair, they do what any 1927 Scott Fitzgerald hero would do: Go to a crummy motel and rent a room. They aren't of the current generation, but they're not really apart from it. I suppose there are more Pookies and Jerrys in the freshman class, even today, than sexually and politically sophisticated types.
Director Alan J. Pakula has chosen, deliberately I suppose, to isolate his kids from any 1969 concerns and show them completely in terms of each other. For maybe 80 per cent of the movie they're the only ones on screen. Liza Minnelli plays Pookie as an appealing eccentric who gradually cracks up as her hang-ups surface. Pookie is basically interested only in herself -- boringly so, at times. But at least she cares enough to make an effort to reach someone else.