“Taking Off” – Czech High in America

Taking Off


Title: “Taking Off”

Release Date: 1971

Director: Miloš Forman

Cast: Buck Henry, Lynn Carlin, Linnea Heacock, Audra Lindley, Vincent Schiavelli



Before Miloš Forman gained worldwide fame and recognition with his sensational screen adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” starring Jack Nicholson, he was making films in his native country of Czechoslovakia. “Audition”, “Black Peter,” “A Blonde in Love” and “The Firemen’s Ball” have made a permanent mark in the history of cinema. In 1968, at the invitation of the Paramount Pictures film studio, the prominent director traveled to the United States to shoot his foreign debut “Taking Off” there, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary.

“Taking Off” – plot outline

Larry and Lynn Tyne are raising their teenage daughter Jeannie. The girl, bored with the pretentiousness and routine of the household, runs away from home. During her search, Mr. and Mrs. Tyne accidentally come across the Association of Parents of Runaway Children – an eccentric organization of bewildered caregivers. Participation in the training makes them realize that a constant life of monotony has an adverse effect not only on Jeannie, but also on themselves.

“Taking Off” – a story about the conflict of generations

The beginning of the 1970s was a period of great demand for film productions oscillating around the themes of rebellion and nonconformism. The hippie movements, expressing strong opposition to various political and social systems, had a huge impact on the views of American youth at the time. Miloš Forman himself realized this when, between 1968 and 1971, he conducted a detailed analysis of the culture of the flower children in the East Village. It was there that he noticed Linnea Heacock, whom he later gave the role of Jeannie.

Taking Off movie review

The totality of commonly accepted customs stood in stark contrast to the needs of teenagers, so it’s no surprise that frequent escapes from home were the order of the day. Thanks to singing contests organized by hippies, teenagers were free to express their pains, expectations and deeply hidden emotions. At the time, the image of the ideal American family, living in a large white house in the suburbs, appeared false and outdated in the eyes of young and crazy-thirsty teenagers.

The dominant correctness and its weaknesses

Miloš Forman’s foreign debut is not only an interestingly written satire on American life during the “Flower Power” period, but also an apt commentary on the conformist inclinations of the adult part of society. The famous scene in which the character played by Vincent Schiavelli instructs the assembled parents on how to expertly twist and smoke a joint is a perfect example here. The stolid caretakers, having been introduced to the mysterious green dried substance, suddenly come to the conclusion that this illegal substance – popular among their children – actually turns out to be a very pleasant aphrodisiac.

“Taking Off” emphatically shows that through excessive conformism and constant attempts to please the rest of society, the adult individual ceases to decide for himself, which can consequently negatively affect his relationship with his children. After all, parenting is not just about setting boundaries and following a system of rewards and punishments. Only by partnering and exploring new, uncharted territory can we fully figure out our kids’ problems, something Forman understood all too well.

Taking Off 1971 film analysis

“Taking Off” – Forman’s pass to the American market

The Prague Spring and the USSR’s invasion of Czechoslovakia forced Miloš Forman to leave the country. This coincided with an invitation from Paramount Pictures. The American film company needed someone from the outside who could look at teenage problems from a distance. The choice of Forman was quite obvious, since with his four feature-length productions made in Czechoslovakia, pulsating around the dilemmas of young people, he proved his talent and knowledge of the subject matter.

Lynn Carlin – a forgotten actress

Playing the role of Jeannie’s mother – Lynn Carlin – has been absent from the screen for almost four decades. She made her debut with a capital role as an abandoned woman in John Cassavetes’ 1968 film “Faces.” Her performance earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Another success that the artist can boast of is the role of Lynn Tyne in the just discussed “Taking Off”. For the first half of the film we observe her irritation with the situation of her daughter’s disappearance, but the transformation she undergoes after the first three quarters of an hour – from an embarrassed mother to an extroverted party girl who has let go of all the brakes – is incredible. Her performance earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Leading Actress. Her subsequent activity abounded in successes of much lesser stature – she successfully appeared in TV series and films, but never repeated her great achievements from the beginning of her career.

“Taking Off”, directed by Miloš Forman, is not only a smoothly executed comedy of manners, but above all a beautiful retro postcard of the early 1970s. In addition to the aforementioned Lynn Carlin, the film features the equally funny Buck Henry and rising pop stars Carly Simon and Tina Turner. Kathy Bates, known for her classic role as Annie Wilkes from “Misery” directed by Rob Reiner, even appears in an episode.

“Taking Off” can be seen as the Czech director’s cinematic thesis. Four years after his American debut, Forman will return with an absolutely complete picture, which will be loved by millions of viewers, and Jack Nicholson’s outstanding role will be permanently inscribed not only in the pages of cinema, but before all in the consciousness of every X muse lover.


Sylwia K., „Odlot”, [dostęp: 7 stycznia 2022], film.org