Among all the youth movies that came out and flopped in the very early 70s (of course we tend to only remember the few that succeeded), this one is actually pretty decent. Though you can see why MGM dumped it after some poor test screenings-it probably would have been a commercial nonstarter, too. (Unfortunately, the 20 minutes or so that MGM cut from it seem to be permanently lost, as the current Blu-ray/DVD distributor normally puts out movies as fully restored as they can be.) It's full of talent that didn't get any further in movies (the leads, the director), supporting players at the start of long careers (notably Robert Walden as the hero's roommate/sidekick), NYC scenesters (like Pat Ast) and Broadway recruits (Elaine Stritch, Melba Moore).
Ex-near-pop-star Jordan Christopher, in the last of his three leads in offbeat movies that flopped (the others being obscure drama "The Tree" and AIP psychedelic oddity "Angel, Angel, Down We Go") is Jonathan, a cynical, rudderless young Manhattan taxi driver, sharing an apartment with still-virginal buddy Walden (who probably gives the most appealing performance here). Various women throw themselves at our handsome hero, but for whatever reason he reluctantly lets himself get sorta-involved only with Jill O"Hara (who'd been in the stage musicals "Promises Promises" and "George M!"). She's Jennifer, a downstairs neighbor who is letting her parents support her for a year so she can "find herself" (even she puts arch quote marks around that phrase).
Anyway, not a lot happens-the two guys go to a mostly-gay party (portrayed with a wee bit of condescension, though the movie's attitude is actually pretty open-minded and blase for movies at the time); the romance grows; the three hang out as friends. Finally hero and girlfriend go to his parents' for Christmas, which turns out to be a huge mistake because they (Kate Reid, William Redfield) are the very picture of squabbling suburban banality-which drags the film into more cartoonishly familiar anti-Establishment territory.
The British director had previously made a good antiwar period piece ("The Virgin Soldiers"), then later made an earnest sex-change drama ("I Want What I Want"), neither of which were hits--nor was this, his sole U.S. feature. So he went back to a very successful stage career. "Pigeons" has more a slightly more authentic tenor until most movies of its ilk, at least until it heads to suburbia and turns into sort of a sitcom, retreading the same shrill "satire" of middle-American complacency as in every other movie at that time.
I guess the problem here is that as likable as the performers and the filmmaking is, there's ultimately too little too root for here: Jonathan is just one more early 70s antihero expressing a vague discontent with everyone around him. But aside from being better-looking (of course he is--he's the star here!), he's no better than they are, nor does he have any notable intellect, aspirations or talents to make him special. He's merely petulant. "Pigeons" is just good enough that, ultimately, it arrives at the same conclusion: That Jonathan's only real problem is he won't accept he's a fallible, ordinary human like everyone else. It's an open narrative ending that is nice in that it proves the film won't settle for any pat message. But it also underlines the film's own problem, which is that finally we really don't give a crap what Jonathan does or doesn't do with his life. He's made things complicated for himself without being a complicated enough personality to justify it. The movie wants to present him as a free spirit, but we suspect he's just a poser.
This is the kind of loose, am-I-gonna-get-my-groovy-head-together-or-not non-story that was typical of a lot of hip literature at the time. Indeed, the movie was based on a very short, well-received novel by David Boyer that seems to be hard to find now. Whether it's a holdover from the source novel or was pasted on to make up for the cut scenes, the film has that annoying device of the hero commenting in smug, unnecessary voiceover on his own actions. (And his flat quips seem to have been recorded in an echo chamber, making them even flatter.) Yet despite that irritating aspect, and the film's lack of much narrative drive, "Pigeons" still deserves more recognition than it's gotten (i.e. almost none). While no buried treasure, it's aged better than a fair number of films that were far more widely distributed at the time.
Supposedly Sylvester Stallone appears as an extra in a party scene, but I didn't spot him.