“Midnight Cowboy,” the story of optimisticly naive Texan Joe Buck (Jon Voight) moving to New York City in the hopes of getting rich off of sleeping with wealthy women, is just as much of a deconstruction of the western genre as it is a study of how the American dream is dying through our own compliancy. In this case, Joe is the prototypical hero cowboy, from the way he dresses and talks to the way he sets out to do what is right in his heart, Joe feels like he has New York in the palm of his hand, like a whole new frontier ready for the taking. And despite many setbacks, tragedies and hardships, Joe goes throught it all with wide eyes and an honest heart, always believing that he’ll do the right thing, like the cowboys he grew up watching on television.
But the brilliance of “Midnight Cowboy” comes from Joe’s optimistic outlook running up against a harsh world that doesn’t care if you’re honest or filthy. What starts out as a hopeful if misguided journey to do something with his life quickly turns to tragedy. It is painful to watch Joe slip so far, everything going wrong and somehow finding a way to make it worse. And yet, Joe remains hopeful, even as his best friend Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) lets him live in his shack without electricity or heating as the winter months arrive. All this shows that the ideals of the cowboys and their “do the right thing” nature is hopelessly lost when morals hold no power.
Final Grade: A