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Bodybuilding and class consciousness are at the center of this moody, insightful, and frequently funny film based on a novel by Charles Gaines and directed by Bob Rafelson (FIVE EASY PIECES). Set in Birmingham, Alabama, it features Jeff Bridges as Craig Blake, the scion of a wealthy
Mountain Brook family who becomes involved in a real estate deal masterminded by Jabo (Joe Spinell). One of the properties blocking the development project is a health club, which Craig visits in the hope of finding a way to persuade its owner, Thor Erickson (wonderfully played by R.G. Armstrong),
to sell. In the process, however, Craig immerses himself in the world of bodybuilding, becoming friends with Joe Santo (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is training for the Mr. Universe contest, and failing in love with Mary Tate Farnsworth (Sally Field), a working-class miss who questions the slumming
rich kid's sincerity. Craig tries to walk a tightrope between his two worlds, but when matters become too complex, he is forced to choose. As he did in FIVE EASY PIECES, Rafelson explores the issue of class in the US, contrasting Craig's privileged, pretentious friends with the more down-to-earth
denizens of the Olympic Spa, but at the same time saving his most telling censure for Craig's condescending attitude toward his new friends. Filled with interesting characters and strong performances, STAY HUNGRY not only makes its point about class prejudice, but presents a detailed portrait of
southern country club culture and the bodybuilding milieu that would be so deftly captured in Schwarzenegger's next film, the fine documentary PUMPING IRON (1977).