What We’re Watching – 2/1/2012
Wealthy businessman Alec Walker (Cary Grant) is unhappily married to Maida (Kay Francis), a schemer who married him for money, not love. He learned of her deceit shortly after they were married, but she has his parents and society fooled into thinking she is the perfect, loving wife. Alec has long decided to stop pretending he is happy, so Maida is trying hard to get his family and friends to control his behavior. While he is out riding one day, he meets Julie Eden (Carole Lombard), a young widow who charms him with her forthright and humorous nature. He begins to court her, but she pulls back when she discovers that he is married. Alec asks Maida for a divorce, and she pretends to acquiesce, but in the end, she refuses him, and informs Julie that she will not let him go without a scandal. Julie cannot risk exposing her daughter to a trial, so she asks Alec to let her go. All three characters struggle to get what they want, but only two of them are willing to address the moral ramifications of those desires. Who does Grant end up with? Watch and find out!
This is a lovely melodrama with wonderful performances. Grant and Lombard have great chemistry, and both performers shine as a couple who want to be together, but aren’t willing to compromise their beliefs to do so. Both actors have impeccable comedic timing, and while this film is by no means a comedy, the beats of their dialogue are spot on. Kay Francis is also truly evil as one of the most manipulative movie ladies ever. She plays her dual roles as wounded wife and grasping climber equally well, and I found her wonderful to watch. I’ve been seeking out her movies lately, and this film confirmed for me that she is worth the effort.
Paul Rudd is like catnip for a lot of ladies, and some of us will go see pretty much anything he is in. As such, I believe he has a responsibility not to be in super crappy movies because I can’t always refuse to watch, even when I know better. Our Idiot Brother is super crap, and not even the presence of the most amiable man in Hollywood can change that. Ned Rochlin (Rudd) chooses to always believe the best about people as a life philosophy, which doesn’t work so well for him when he gets arrested for selling pot to a uniformed police officer. (A move that makes many people think he is an idiot. And they would be right.) After his release from prison, he takes turns staying with each of his sisters: Liz (Emily Mortimer), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel). All of the sisters are unpleasant, each one in her own very special way. And each sister’s life starts to unravel after Ned comes to stay, so they blame him for all of their crap. When he goes back to jail, they all miss him and work hard to get him released, and then everyone gets an undeserved happy ending. And they learn important life lessons. I’ve decided this movie is misogynistic—not because every woman close to Ned is stupid or evil—but because every woman who goes to see it is going to lose IQ points.
Edward Bare (Dirk Bogarde) has married a much older woman, Molly (Mona Washbourne), and they both seem to know the score. Edward—or Teddy—will take care of her now by doting on her every whim, and Molly will take care of him after she dies. Teddy seems genuinely fond of Molly, but that won’t stop him from killing her when he thinks that she has put his inheritance in danger. Unfortunately, he makes his move without enough information, and it turns out he gets a wonderful house, but no money to maintain it or him. So, he heads off to find another widow and ends up with Freda Jeffries (Margaret Lockwood), who has plenty of money, but no manners or class. She is not nearly as easy to manipulate as Molly, and Teddy must figure out a way to get what he wants from of this new situation.
This dark little British film is based on a play, and it’s evident (especially in the screechy last scenes), but it is quite enjoyable nonetheless. Dirk Bogarde is great as Teddy. You can see that he cares for Molly, but just can’t let her stand in his way. He is a pretty likable guy, except for that whole murder thing; but psychopaths are often charming. Margaret Lockwood is wonderful as the coarse Freda. She sort of lives in my mind as the plucky ingénue from The Lady Vanishes, but here she plays so against type, it took me several viewings to realize it was her. The director, Lewis Gilbert, also directed Alfie, Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me, Educating Rita, and Shirley Valentine. I don’t think I would have ever guessed these movies were all directed by the same man, and this is another interesting entry into Gilbert’s filmography. Cast a Dark Shadow is a nice noirish thriller, but unfortunately has yet to be released on DVD in the U.S. TCM plays it every now and then, and I recommend keeping an eye out for it.
For the three people who have not seen the show, it is about the day-to-day operations of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, PA. The Office is helmed by regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell), a completely clueless good-hearted idiot man-child. (Now that Carell has left the show, the office head is Andy Bernard, another completely clueless good-hearted idiot man-child, but slightly different.) There are a lot of other characters on the show, but in the interest of time, I’m only going to address my two favorites: Creed and Dwight.
I’m not going to lie; if the name of The Office was changed to Creed Thoughts and it was all about Creed doing Creed things, I would be on board. Creed is like your creepy uncle, who might be on drugs and will certainly sell all of your stuff, but who can be counted on to bring on the crazy when needed. He smells like sprouted mung beans, and I am pretty sure that he is in charge of quality assurance for the branch, but I’m not sure he knows that. On second thought, a show all about Creed might be too much for some people. It can be overwhelming when things get that real. (For more fun, research the actor Creed Bratton.)
Ok, let’s talk about Dwight now. For those not in the know, Dwight K. Schrute (Rainn Wilson) is the Scranton branch’s top salesman and a beet farmer. (He also runs a B&B on the beet farm and is happy to host events such as weddings and office parties.) He is an annoying know-it-all, a suck-up, wears Birkenstocks, and cannot take a joke. He is also a loyal friend, good in an emergency, has an awesome car, and knows a lot about manure. But not anymore. Now he is just kind of mean with all of his complexity taken out. The Office has hit the point that a lot of long running shows do, where the characters turn into caricatures and a lot of the reasons to love the show go away. I want my Dwight back! It’s not too late! (I know it really is too late, but I’m gonna be in denial for a little longer.)