Is “Born to Win” A Winner?

Directed by Ivan Passer, Born to Win (1971) presents us with J. (George Segal), a drug addict who considers himself . . . born to win, which actually means born to get the fix he needs.  Only he usually doesn’t.  What he does is fall in love with Parm (Karen Black), who immediately, strangely likes him and accepts him as he is.  They have a good time, but it’s without drugs and J. wants to score.  There is excess in the film in that too many bad things happen to J., and yet, to be sure, BTW asks:  Does the opposite of being “born to win” exist?

Another fault is that an episode of zany comedy fails to blend in with the film’s enjoyable drama.  Passer and David Scott Milton, however, wrought an original screenplay, and there is a load of fine acting.  Segal is at his thoughtful best, not at all miscast as a junkie.  Black is superbly convincing, and Jay Fletcher does an estimable job as J.’s black junkie friend.  Marcia Jean Kurtz  and Robert De Niro are gratifyingly realistic.  But Born to Win is a work of seriousness and certain artistry more than it is a truly good work.

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