“Ragtime” tells the intricate story of four New York families at the turn of the 20th century, each indicative of that time in American history, and highlighting some of the downsides of following the American Dream. Starving immigrant artist Tateh (Mandy Patinkin) will eventually set off to make his fortune in Hollywood, but not without a chance encounter with Evelyn Nesbit (Elizabeth McGovern). Nesbit was the center of the infamous Thaw-White murder case, in which her mentally unstable millionare husband Harry K. Thaw (Robert Joy) murdered her lover, the famed architect Stanford White (Norman Mailer). Another storyline follows the disintegration of an upper-class American family headed by Mother (Mary Steenburgen) and Father (James Olson). Their seemingly perfect existence is shattered when black ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Howard E. Rollins), begins to romance a pregnant young woman living in their home (Debbie Allen). Walker, a dignified man, turns to rage when he is tormented by local racists. Walker wishes to sue the city, but can´t find any lawyer willing to represent him. He decides then to exact revenge by planting a bomb in the firehouse. He then does the same in the J.P. Morgan Library, assisted by disguised friends. He demands that his Model T and the fire chief, Conklin, will be delivered to him or the library will be destroyed…

“Ragtime” is a 1981 American drama film, directed by Milos Forman, based on 1975 historical novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow. The film was nominated for eight Oscars. I haven´t red the novel yet, but bought it not that long ago. But, the movie version has been on my to see list since 1981 and finally I got hold of a DVD copy. “Ragtime” has a solid foundation, there´s a focus on many strong subjects like racism, family life, love, life, death, dreams etc, it´s nicely shot and we get some really good acting performances from everyone involved. But, as Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote in 1981, “Yet I’m not at all sure that anyone who has not read the book will have any idea what’s going on much of the time, or why.”, which pretty much sums it up. It´s quite clear Milos Forman didn´t succeed in getting a script that managed to put this epic book properly on the screen. The film crosscuts the different story lines, which in the book most likely come together in a way that works, awkwardly and the parts with Evelyn Nesbit and Tateh makes no real sense as you get the feeling that the main story is more or less the one concerning Coalhouse Walker Jr. Vincent Canby also wrote “This is a lot of plot for one film to cover coherently in a short period of time, and ”Ragtime” doesn’t. Time itself is totally confused. Years appear to pass, but the children don’t age. As the movie progresses, one becomes aware of a kind of desperation on the part of the film makers.” So, there´s a failure in the editing as well and I can only say that ”Ragtime” is a disappointment in the end as the production failed to create a coherent period piece in my eyes. (Three out of 5)

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