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  • Writer's pictureMichael Field

Return of the Secaucus Seven

Lone Star - John Sayles, Chris Cooper - Forgotten Cinema Podcast

This week on the Forgotten Cinema we talk about the 1996 neo-Western mystery film, Lone Star. Starring Chris Cooper, Matthew McConaughey, Elizabeth Peña, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Canada, Joe Morton and Frances McDormand. Directed by John Sayles.

Not many people know about John Sayles. Sure, regular old film folk know him. While Sayles' films tend to land in the art house theater circuit, chances are you've seen his work in tons of major studio films as he's a well-known script doctor who gets paid to not have his name appear in the credits. Here's a dirty little secret, there's never one writer on a studio film. There are script doctors abound on the studio's payroll who take a pass at scripts quite often. (Side Note: This is my dream job.)

His other writing credits include several horror films like Piranha (1978), Alligator (1980) and The Howling (1981)

He did an uncredited rewrites on Apollo 13 and Mimic, to name a few, as well as write a script titled "Night Skies", which if you know your film history, became this movie called E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.

I've always wanted to watch more of Sayles, so this week, I decided to watch his first movie, The Return of the Secaucus Seven. Here's the wikipedia breakdown:

The film tells the story of seven friends who spend a weekend together in New Hampshire. The weekend is marred by the break-up of a relationship between two of the friends. This causes a ripple effect among the group and brings up old desires and problems.

Released in 1979 and starring no one you know, unless you're a huge NYPD Blue fan and those who are get to see a young Gordon Clapp as the boyfriend of one of the Secaucus Seven. I rented this film on Apple TV+, but if you have an AMC+ account, you're able to watch this for free.

The Return of the Secaucus Seven - John Sayles - Forgotten Cinema Podcast

I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's pretty much what the synopsis breaks it down to be. A story about people in their late 20s going into their their 30s trying to figure out where they fit in ad their fervor for social change is dulled by growing older and the dreaded word: Responsibilities. It's got some fantastic dialogue that made me laugh out loud. My biggest takeaways from this movie was:

  1. Sayles makes writing look easy and I know it's not! There's an ease with the way the dialogue flows and it's not just about what they say, but what they're alluding to within their words.

  2. This is The Big Chill, before there was The Big Chill. The 1983 movie written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan about a 15 year reunion by a group of friends, trying to cope with the suicide of one of their own. I know Kasdan says he never head of this movie beforehand, but...their are TONS of similarities

  3. This movie sparked the independent film movement. Now, I didn't come to this takeaway on my own. I read it within the notes of the movie while surfing the web (Do people still say that?). But generally, this movie is thought of as being the first independent funded film to gain traction with an audience and thus inspire future filmmakers to go off on their own and shoot indies. While that's not anything new, I think the willingness of the studios or the industry to give these indie films a chance to be seen by audiences is probably where the indie movement gained traction.

I plan on watching more of Sayles earlier work and if you're into great writing and you don't mind watching older films (I mean, 1979 isn't that old, is it?) then I highly recommend you check out The Return of the Secaucus Seven. It's a solid indie film and we all know how much I like indies.


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