Very much of its time (end of the 1960s), Midnight Cowboy may not quite pass muster 50 years later with its visual trickery, but it remains a seminal, Oscar-winning, feature.
Naive Texan cowboy Joe Buck (Jon Voight – Coming Home, Deliverance) finds short shrift in the New York escort business. Buck discovers hustling wealthy female socialites will not make his anticipated fortune. Instead, he finds himself sharing a dingy squat with the shifty, street-smart Ratso (Dustin Hoffman – Kramer Vs Kramer, The Graduate). In spite of their differences, they build a friendship and do that what they need to do to survive.
Aside from its (overly intrusive) psychedelic party montages, director John Schlesinger (Marathon Man, Sunday Bloody Sunday) focuses on a deeply realistic vibe, perfectly conveying the abject poverty of hunger, winter cold and loneliness. Relative newcomer Voight is an assured mix of swagger and naivety whilst Hoffman, in his first significant role since The Graduate, is wholly convincing in the desperate sadness of limping, consumptive Ratso. But it’s arguably the dialogue of Waldo Salt (Coming Home, Serpico) in his adaptation of James Leo Herlihy’s novel – real and oh so believable – that is the stand out of a film that became the first X-rated film to win the best film Oscar.
Nominated for 7 Oscars in 1970 including best actor for both Hoffman and Voight, won 3 for best film, director and adapted screenplay.