Thursday, March 19, 2015

AFI Top 100, #99: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967)

Movie Stats:
Released 1967 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Stanley Kramer (who made appearances in my A-Z Project with On the Beach and Judgment at Nuremberg)
Stars - Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton

Plot Summary:
When white Joanna Drayton (Houghton) brings home her newly-minted black fiancĂ© John Prentice (Poitier), who she’s only known for ten days, it comes as a huge shock to her parents Matt (Tracy) and Christina (Hepburn), who are forced to confront whether or not they actually believe their own liberal principles.

Mild blue language (including one racial slur that I heard).

Bad Stuff:
In the scene where Matt asks John if he understands how difficult things will be for his future biracial children, John says (I’m paraphrasing), “Well, of course we’re having kids. If we didn’t, it wouldn’t really be a marriage.” I was like, “Um, screw you, film.” I guess they were only capable of tackling one progressive issue at a time.

Normally I’m a fan of Poitier but I thought he was terrible in this. I felt like he was chewing the scenery any time he was required to show a big emotion.

It was super repetitive. The whole film is basically the same conversation re-hashed in about 15 different ways. While that’s true to real life, it’s pretty boring on-film.

Good Stuff:
Pretty much everyone else but Poitier was great. I particularly enjoyed the performances from Tracy, Hepburn, and Isabel Sanford (as the Draytons’ maid, Tillie).

Loved the scene where Christina tells off her employee Hilary (Virginia Christine). It was one of those fantastic insult-you-without-insulting-you monologues that I wish I knew how to come up with in those rare times when someone is being bitchy to me.

I admire the film for tackling an issue that was very controversial at the time, especially since it did so in such a straight-forward manner.

The Verdict:
It was okay. This is one of those films that I feel like I should have liked more than I did. It wasn’t that I couldn’t relate, or that I found it irrelevant to modern times. I think stories about prejudice will always be relevant (unfortunately). I was just bored, I guess. I hear a lot of repeated conversations in my day-to-day life, so when I read a book, or see a show or movie, where characters keep telling other characters stuff that the reader/viewer already knows, I start to tune out. Show, don’t tell, movie. I also really hated Matt’s patronizing, paternal attitude toward his wife. Like I said, I guess this film was only capable of tackling one issue at a time. 

On the other hand, there were some great performances, I loved the costuming, and occasionally there was some fantastic dialogue. I also enjoyed the brief flirtation the movie had with discussing issues like generational differences, how men change as they age, and the relationship between fathers and sons. 

Like I said, it was okay. I give it 3 stars.


Patricia said...

I also loved their house. It was gorgeous.

However, I found Katherine Houghton to be a terrible actress. And her voice really bugged me.

Other than that, we are in agreement. It was kind of boring. Though important for the time.

I just checked the reissued list and this movie is not on it. Yankee Doodle Dandy moved up to #98 though.

balyien said...

Their house was lovely! And I agree that Houghton wasn't especially impressive. It's definitely interesting to see what changed between the lists. I may do the reissued one as well. We'll see how I feel once I'm done with this one.