The teaming of the comedy team of Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and director George Cukor leads to comic mayhem as a bright rich girl steals her sister’s fiancée, a struggling young lawyer. Not the most famous of the Grant/Hepburn/Cukor pairings (The Philadelphia Story would have to take that prize) but I feel it’s the best. The comedy has a quirky, strange quality that makes it unconventional, which might be why it was not initially received as a classic, but it’s not too strange to miss this wonderful film.
Posts Tagged: Romance
The Heiress is a magnificent film that defies 1940s Hollywood logic…the woman and man do not walk into the sunset hand-in-hand. Actually, what is even more defiant for a film of this era is a woman having power over a man. Yes, 1940s were the days of the powerful woman in Hollywood: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, etc. But, the films those women were in were mostly about tough ladies who needed the love of a good man to set them straight. The Heiress is nothing like that. The film begins by setting the stage that shy, naïve Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland), the wealthy daughter of a stern New England doctor, played beautifully by Sir Ralph Richardson, will probably never marry. Catherine is plain, timid, and lacks what, as her father claims, men look for in future wives…aside, of course, from her money. Enter Montgomery Clift’s Morris Townsend, who takes a liking to Catherine but her father disapproves and believes Townsend is just an opportunist. By now I’m sure you’re wondering where the “powerful” woman enters the picture. Well, Catherine learns quite a few life lessons over the course of the film and in the end she is a strong, confident woman who knows exactly what she wants and doesn’t want. Even though George Cukor was known in Hollywood circles as being the best “ladies director,” I feel that director William Wyler gives Cukor tough competition here and with some of his other movies (Roman Holiday, Mrs. Miniver, Jezebel, Funny Girl , etc.). This film is a tour de force for de Havilland (she won the Oscar), but Wyler’s brave direction increases both the power of Catherine and the tone of the whole film.
Mike Nichols’ controversial film about Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman, in his film debut), a recently out of college lost-soul who begins an affair with his parent’s friend, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), just out of boredom. The affair allows him to procrastinate on other important decisions like graduate school and/or getting a job, much to his parents’ chagrin. More problems occur when he falls in love with the Robinsons’ daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross). This film did as much for the 1960’s rebellion as it did for both the careers of Simon and Garfunkel and Mike Nichols, who earned an Oscar for his cutting edge direction.
In rating movies about mobsters, Goodfellas is right up there with The Godfather. Martin Scorsese took everything he knew about Italians and gangsters and New York and created one of the finest pieces of American cinema ever made. Goodfellas could really be called “Everything You Wanted To Know About Being In The Mob But Were Afraid To Ask.” The main character, Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, is a half-Irish, half-Italian Brooklyn kid who wants nothing more out of like than to be a gangster. He watches mobsters as a kid and knows…just knows…that one day, that will be him. And, sure enough, when he gets older, he gets in with the “right” crowd, and bada-boom, he’s a “made” man. The fascinating part is how Scorsese’s camera follows around Henry Hill, capturing his rise (where he can walk into a nightclub and get any seat he wants, etc.) to his downfall (the breakup of his marriage, etc.). It almost feels like every moment of Hill’s life is being recorded…as if this is more a documentary on Henry Hill, as opposed to a feature film with him as a character. Well, that last part might not be far from the truth…Goodfellas is based on the nonfiction book Wiseguys by Nicholas Pileggi. Yes, nonfiction. Hill is a real person. So, in a way, Scorsese making a documentary here is not that far from the truth. Though, I don’t want to give the impression that this film is a dry, boring look at one man. It most definitely is not that…it is a fast-paced, realistic look into the inner-workings of a crime organization, the men who run it, and the women who suffer the consequences. Given how common Mafia movies (and television shows) are, skip the rest and watch this one. Trust me.
As critics and audiences alike call this their favorite James Bond film, I guess I am no longer alone in thinking this is one of the best spy films ever made. There is very little wrong with Goldfinger and what is wrong is very easily overlooked because of the strong plot and even stronger characters. With many series, the filmmakers begin to wane and rest on their successes when number three (or so) comes along. But, this is the case where the third film truly is the charm. Number one in the series Dr. No and two (From Russia with Love) just seem like practice in order to get to this third installment in the Bond series. Bond creator and author Ian Fleming got the title Goldfinger from the villain’s name…a man who is obsessed with gold. Truly. And the actor who plays the man-in-gold (Gert Fröbe) fits the bill perfectly. Sean Connery’s Bond also comes into his own in this film. In Dr. No he seemed a little unsure of himself and in From Russia with Love, it was the opposite…he seems TOO confident as the super-spy. Here, Connery shows the right tone of power, control and fear. And the plot is also one of the best ever in a Bond film…with Frobe’s Goldfinger trying to destroy the gold in Fort Knox so his mass amounts of gold increase considerably in value. But, for Bond films, plot always seems to take a back seat to the gadgets, romance and action. Here, at least, they made an attempt at a story…and did a great job in the process. No worries, though. There are lots of gadgets, action and romance. Promise.
For Pierce Brosnan’s first 007 outing, he sure picked a fun ride. This is a James Bond film with bite…one that was perfect for Bond’s reemergence in theaters after a six-year break (the previous Bond film, License to Kill with Timothy Dalton, was produced in 1989). It also is a good film for the end of the 20th Century…no more Cold War doesn’t mean the former Soviet Union countries cannot be used as adequate threats. This story deals with a former MI-6 agent who went over to the other side in order to avenge his past (his Russian parents were Cossacks who were sent home by the British to be executed by Stalin) and cause World chaos. There are MAJOR parts of this film that are outlandish and unbelievable. But, remember, this is a Bond film. Unbelievable is a requirement. Brosnan fits into Bond’s tux perfectly…he mixes the right combination of Connery’s suaveness and Moore’s wit and Dalton’s fierceness. The series lagged with the two Dalton films (License and 1987’s The Living Daylights) mostly because many of the Bond-isms were gone. Yes, Dalton’s 007 was still asking for his Vodka Martini’s “shaken not stirred” but the quips and especially the romances were practically nonexistent…the latter probably because of the 1980s “safe sex” era. Enter Brosnan who brings it all back with gusto! Ian Fleming would be proud.
Hugh Grant playing Frederic Chopin??? When I found this out, I had to watch this film. And, Grant surprised me by pulling off the role of the fragile pianist with considerable ease. I bought him as Chopin, just as I bought the other characters in this subtly lavish film. Judy Davis plays unconventional 19th Century novelist George Sand, of whom then film revolves. Her relationships with men, especially Chopin, are chronicles here in a semi-farcical/semi-serious way. Knowing nothing about Sand’s personal life, I was fascinated by her character. She is a true rebel for the day…wearing men’s clothes and having open affairs with a variety of different men. The way the movie tells her story is by not exactly taking it all seriously and, on the same taken, not exactly poking fun of it. All in all, Sand, Chopin and all of the other 19th Century characters make this a fun, interesting look at the France in the mid-1800s.
Another Oscar Wilde play comes to life…this time in one that is funny and charming and lively and sometimes even wicked… Set in late 19th Century London, the story revolves around an up-and-coming young politician who gets blackmailed by a “lady” into changing his opinion on an upcoming parliamentary bill. She has some evidence of how he got his early influence…and is willing and ready to use it if he doesn’t meet her demands. OK, so that’s the main plot, but as Wilde always does, the plot is only the beginning of the story. The best parts here are the supporting players and the smaller storylines about romances and the search for husbands, etc. Those are the juicy parts that offer the best snippets of Wilde-esque dialogue, innuendo and puns. One of the leaders in this smaller storylines is Rupert Everett, who plays a cad who has made it is goal in life never to marry. His story interweaves perfectly with the main storyline about the blackmail (he is friends with the politician and used to date the lady who is blackmailing him) but on its own, Everett’s story is a perfectly solid work. His entire character could be pulled out and turned into a full-length play or film, since there is so much meaty dialogue and so many stories to tell about him. If you have liked Wilde’s work in the past (such as A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windemere’s Fan’s, and most notably The Importance of Being Earnest), An Ideal Husband is guaranteed to please and if you’ve never seen anything written by Wilde, this is the one to start with. Trust me…you will want to see them all!
Not having a sister, I’m not sure I complete understand the family dynamic in this film, but putting that aside, I feel this is a good film about love and relationships that neither gets too gooey or too preachy. It starts off like a lot of films have in the past…two siblings have more than their fair share of issues because they could not be more different. One sister is sleazy and superficial, whereas the other is brainy and slower in the “love” department. Sleazy sister likes loafing off her relatives. Brainy sister always is the responsible one who has to pick up the pieces of Sleazy sister’s life. After the Brainy sister finally gives up and kicks Sleazy sister out, the film takes an unconventional turn. Instead of having the typical resolution of “accepting each other’s faults” this one actually allows the characters to change and grow. Enter Shirley MacLaine, who plays the sisters’ estranged grandmother, and there suddenly are three intelligent female characters who are capable of transforming themselves without the help of a “good man” or constant attention from others. The three main characters use what they’ve learned from each other but on their own create their own change.
When a 1950s housewife falls in love with her black gardener, her life that was already in shambles threatens to complete fall apart. A great, powerful drama in the same tone of the early 20th Century melodramas, especially the Douglas Sirk-directed melodrama All That Heaven Allows. In All That Heaven Allows, Jane Wyman plays a recent widow with two grown children and Rock Hudson plays her gardener. The catch, in the Sirk film from 1955, was the age difference and that he is a lowly gardener and she is a prominent widow with means. Far From Heaven takes off where the Sirk film began and uses racial tensions as the barrier between the two potential lovers. Even though they are two different films told in two totally diverse perspectives, both of these movies are worthy of being seen for their brilliant 1950s styles and their powerful messages.