Friday, December 4, 2015

AFI Top 100, #51: "The Philadelphia Story" (1940)

Movie Stats:
Released 1940 (Brazil)
American, in English (minor non-translated French)
Director - George Cukor
Stars - Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

Plot Summary:
Headstrong young socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn), on the eve of her second wedding, finds her life thrown into turmoil by the arrival of her former husband, C.K. “Dexter” Haven (Grant), who brings along cynical journalist Macaulay “Mike” Connor (Stewart).

Very minor blue language; very minor, non-graphic violence.

Bad Stuff:
Skip to the verdict below. There’s so much wrong with it that I can’t list all of it out for you in easy, digestible points.

Good Stuff:
I absolutely adored Virginia Weidler (as Tracy’s younger sister, Dinah). She lit up every scene she was in.

I always enjoy seeing Stewart play out of type.

Loved the scene where, when asked if he’d slept with Tracy while she was highly intoxicated, Mike replied that there were certain rules in society and that one of them is that you don’t sleep with people who can’t give consent. Heck, a lot of people nowadays don’t get that, let alone back in the 1940s.

The Verdict:

This movie is vile. Nearly all of the men are terrible, awful people (Mike isn’t that bad but he’s the best of the lot, and he still comes dangerously close to sleeping with a woman the night before her wedding). Dexter turns up with the express purpose of ruining Tracy’s wedding. Her fiancĂ© George (John Howard) assumes the worst of her without even bothering to get her side of the story. Her father Seth (John Halliday) is cheating on his wife with a young dancer. Her uncle Willie (Roland Young) gropes women without their consent (and of course is treated with an “Oh you!” attitude by everyone, women included). And yet all of these ridiculously terrible people spend the whole movie telling Tracy how terrible SHE is and talking about how she needs to be taken down a peg or two.

Why? She is, perhaps, a bit spoiled, but many wealthy women in fiction are. Other than that, the only “bad” things I see about her is that she’s strong-willed and opinionated. The horror, right? In the most vomit-inducing scene I’ve seen in the history of ever, Seth actually tells Tracy that if she had been a better daughter, he wouldn’t have cheated on her mother. That’s right, his cheating is his daughter’s fault because older men “need” a young woman to adore them so they don’t feel old. Therefore, if their daughters don’t adore them, they’re forced to chase after other young women. I wish I was making this up. I’ve never wanted so badly to punch a hole through my TV screen before.

The best part is that, after she nearly cheats on George with Mike (actually, in my mind, she does cheat emotionally and she kisses him but everyone acts like it’s all okay because they didn’t have sex), this somehow redeems her. Because now she’s as bad as all the men in the film, I guess? I give up. Seriously, I surrender to your stupidity, film.

Amusingly enough, my husband, who was around while I was watching it but not paying attention, happened to tune in at the end, after Tracy has already dumped George at the altar, right when Mike asks her to marry him instead (keep in mind that he’s known her for all of two days) and she turns him down, only to end up re-marrying Dexter. “Wait,” my husband said, “why is she getting married to Cary Grant? Didn’t Jimmy Stewart just ask her to marry him?” And as I struggled to explain to him why all of that had just occurred, I realized that this movie makes no sense and, quite simply, sucks in every way imaginable.

I give it 1 star.


Patricia said...

My story about the Philadelphia Story was that I watched it the weekend I went to visit my friend at the U of I. It was the semester of college I had to take off, I was between colleges, my parents were divorcing, I had no friends in town and not really any job and I was just waiting and waiting (and waiting) to go to my new school, the University of Massachusetts, where hopefully my life would get better. (Little did I know.) So I was very much looking forward to this weekend visiting my high school friend. And it was fun. We watched the Sandra Bullock vehicle "The Net" at the cheap theater, we went to a choir concert, I ran into a really cool drummer who was a sophomore at my high school when I was a senior, I got to hang out at the library and catch up with my friend. Somewhere in there we rented this movie.

The weekend was coming to a close and I had to drive back the next day and I remember something got weird and my friend saying, "So NOBODY is going to watch the movie we rented?" And I wasn't that interested, but it seemed like it was required, so my friend did homework in her room and I watched this movie, which I found boring. I think I said it was okay when asked. Other details elude me and I can see from your review that I won't like it if I watch it again, but I always remember how weird it felt to have to watch a movie that was rented before it was due. Why not just send it back?

balyien said...

Um, you guys probably paid like $2.00 for that movie. You didn't want to waste that money, did you?

Seriously, I'm not sure that I ever returned a movie without at least TRYING to watch it. Honestly, I'm still the same way with library movies. I don't like to keep them longer than the week allotted, although 1-2 renewals are allowed, depending on whether or not someone else has a hold on it. Just because I like to be considerate. I try not to wait till the last minute, but occasionally I find myself watching a film the night before it needs to go back, or sometimes even on its return date.

Your trip to see your friend sounds fun! Did you like Champaign-Urbana?

Patricia said...

University of Idaho, so Moscow, but I can see how it would be confusing. :-)

And I do like Moscow, it's a great college town. There was a time when I thought I would finish up there, but I ended up at UMass and that happened.

I often send movies back to the library unwatched. And I check movies out I've checked out and not watched before. I think I had Sophia Coppola's "Somewhere" out four different times before I finally gave up. Matt watched it though.

It doesn't bug me to check movies out and not watch them. Mostly because once I start a movie I rarely stop. So I don't start unless I'm really sure I want to watch it. If it's due and I haven't watched it and I've renewed it maybe four times, I send it back and don't feel a smidge guilty. They cull things that aren't being checked out. I'm just leaving more room on the shelves.

I don't think I've ever not watched something I brought home from the video store. But there's money involved. (It must not have been my two dollars that rented the Philadelphia Story.) And that's probably why I feel a paralyzing dread in the video store that I don't feel in the library.

balyien said...

Oh, Idaho makes way more sense than Illinois! Did you know that I've never been anywhere in Idaho at all? Well, I went through the panhandle on the train once, but that doesn't count.

I just realized that pretty much the only movies I check out of the library are the ones for my projects. That's probably why I feel compelled to get them watched and returned on time. Don't want to get backed up on my projects.