Born to Win (1971) - Ivan Passer
Ivan Passer's Born to Win is a gritty, tough "drug movie" that really personifies the type of film that lives and dies with its lead performance. Fortunately, Ivan Passer's film features George Segal giving a great subtle, yet extravagant performance as a heroin addict Jay Jay. Jay Jay is a character that is a bit "lost", but the film develops him so well, with a full-dimensioned characterization that displays his off-kilter antics and carefree disposition, making him a character that the audience can't help but feel endeared too, regardless of his lifestyle. Given the tought subject matter and the empathy George Segal creates in this challenging role, I am really surprised that George Segal's performance in this film didn't receive more accolades. Born to Win is a pitch black comedy, with 1970s New York being a perfect setting for this raw portrait. The filthy, grime and grain which is associated with many of the films taking place during period in New York always offers such an interesting time capsule of an forgone era, a setting that I've always had an affinity for. Born to Win balances its drama and comedy really well, skating by on its dark comedy for the majority of the film. There are some great comedic moements throughout, with my favorite being between a sequence where George Segal runs around in a ladies night gown and a sequence where he tries to get chummy with a drug dealer by talking about the benefits of Vidal Sasson, which pefectly captures Jay Jay's endearing sleazy brand of charm. The finale of Born to Win hits the viewer like a ton of bricks with its dramatic weight, almost as if Ivan Passer was setting up the viewer the entire film with black comedy, waiting for the right time to remind the viewer that the junkie lifestyle is far from fun and games.
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