Tribute Presentation Film
The Sterile Cuckoo

United States

Directed by Alan J. Pakula

Alan J. Pakula's first film as a director is not only a beautifully observed story of first love, but is also full of elements that are now recognizable as Pakula's signature. The Sterile Cuckoo is about an outsider struggling to understand how the inside works, and ultimately failing,. Heroine Pookie Adams is the first in a long line of Pakula's sensitively presented women characters. It is rare for a first-time male director to be able to present the female psyche with such compassion and complexity.

Liza Minelli was nominated for an Academy Award for her flawless performance as the desperately lonely Pookie. An oddball - physically gangly and always talking-Pookie is convinced that everyone else is a "weirdo." En route to college, Pookie latches onto a placid freshman, Jerry, and proceeds to charmingly bully him until he has no choice but to fall in love with her. This is far from a heavenly math, and Pakula's perfect camera placement conveys the delicate emotional tenor of every moment. As vulnerable Pookie pushes for more and more intimacy, Jerry tries to deal with the pressure in a decent way. Surprising, funny, and deeply poignant, Pakula's brilliant directorial debut still feels fresh nearly thirty years later.

1969, 35mm, Color, 108 minutes