05 April 2010
Boy, everybody wasn't kidding about this movie. According to Wikipedia, Errol Morris called it "the most depressing movie ever made, providing reassurance that everything will definitely end badly." While I love that quote, I wouldn't call it depressing exactly. I'd call it sad -- like truly, genuinely, feel-it-in-your-gut sad. Not tear-jerking, not weepy melodrama or sentimental; watching this movie I feel actual sadness. It's bleak and it's hopeless. Five good-for-nothing self-centered urbanites, two well-meaning but useless old people, and a no-win scenario that seems never to end. I have very little to say about this film. It's a 1937 melodrama, but it's really watchable (to be fair, Casablanca is a 1942 melodrama, and that's really really watchable). It's charming and inviting -- an odd thing to say about a movie so despairing and uncomfortable, but there you have it.
This film made me feel so sad about getting old, even about the age-old fantasy of getting old with someone, and yet I'm so glad I watched it. It's really beautiful, and the emotions this film brings out in me feel much more genuine and full than I'm used to from Hollywood, then or now. I'm really amazed. This is absolutely a great film.
One more piece of Wikipedia-borne trivia: McCarey believed that this was his finest film. When he accepted his Best Director Oscar for The Awful Truth, he said "Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture."