Ragtime (1981)

PG   |    |  Drama


Ragtime (1981) Poster

A young black pianist becomes embroiled in the lives of an upper-class white family set among the racial tensions, infidelity, violence, and other nostalgic events in early 1900s New York City.


7.3/10
8,192

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  • James Olson and Howard E. Rollins Jr. in Ragtime (1981)
  • Elizabeth McGovern and Donald O'Connor in Ragtime (1981)
  • Debbie Allen and Howard E. Rollins Jr. in Ragtime (1981)
  • James Cagney in Ragtime (1981)
  • James Olson in Ragtime (1981)
  • Debbie Allen in Ragtime (1981)

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2 February 2002 | bigpurplebear
A Flawed Beauty Is Nonetheless A Beauty
I finished reading Doctorow's novel just before it was announced that production had started on the movie. I remember thinking, "How the hell do you make a movie of a book where the central characters are named 'Mother,' 'Father,' and 'Mother's Younger Brother?'"

Milos Forman showed how: In a word, beautifully.

And "Ragtime" is beautiful, stunning in its recreation of early 1900s New York, utilizing a script which somehow ties together the central events and their effects on its main characters as well as one of the finest, most haunting soundtracks (Randy Newman, who went so far as to compose several original 'ragtime' numbers) in the past twenty years, topped off with a first-rate cast.

James Cagney was the big news, of course, and deservedly so: Emerging from twenty years of retirement, he showed that he'd not only not lost anything but had added to his expertise. Add Mary Steenburgen, Mandy Patinkin, James Olsen, Howard Rollins, Keith McMillan and even Elizabeth McGovern (each of them perfectly cast), to name but a few, and you see where Forman wasn't missing a bet.

"Ragtime" suffers, ultimately, due to lapses in editing -- the most grievous lapse the cutting of a short scene which explains Commissioner Waldo's motivation behind the action he ultimately takes with Coalhouse Walker. Some cuts are always necessarily (especially in a movie as sprawling as this), yet that cut -- and several others -- flaw this beauty of a film.

But not fatally. Not at all. More than twenty years later, "Ragtime" is still gorgeous.

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