The First Wives Club (1996)
Review: A group of mid life women find their lives in tatters when a friend from college suddenly commits suicide. Their chance reunion reveals that all three women are stuck in quickly imploding relationships as their husbands are all chasing younger and thinner women. Teaming together, they pursue a plan to make their husbands pay.
I love this movie so much. It is the perfect antidote to the romantic comedy. What happen after happily, ever after? Prince Charming leaves Cinderella when the mid-life crisis strikes. Suddenly, any woman is more attractive than the one he has at home. The First Wives club manages to convey a message about female empowerment without resorting to degrading or crude humor. Annie (Keaton), Elise (Hawn), and Brenda (Midler) all look for a new lease on life now that their husbands left. All three actresses play off each other extremely well and convincingly portray three women looking for new identities. The comedy is on point and sharply written. I wish more female comedy focused on witty humor over physical slapstick.
“Don’t get mad. Get everything.”
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Review: Katherine Hepburn knew how to light up a scene. She absolutely shines in this gem of a screwball comedy. Hepburn portrays Susan, a high flying, fast talking heiress with a pet leopard (Baby). Through a series of misadventures, she ends up hijacking the life of David, played by Cary Grant. A rather dry professor, David is on the verge of marrying his assistant when Susan breezes into his life.
What makes this movie shine is the excellent cast and the fact that Grant could keep a straight face while Hepburn spouted out her rapid fire lines. This was actually Hepburn’s first comedy. Howard Hawks hired several veteran vaudeville actors to train her and work on comedic timing. The movie actually flopped when it debuted but went on to make a nice return for Hepburn. Her estate still receives loyalties from this film. If you are a fan of screwball comedies, classic cinema, Hepburn, Grant, or all of the above, Bringing Up Baby is an excellent antidote for bad weather blues.
“And so begins the hilarious adventure of Professor David Huxley and Miss Susan Vance, a flutter-brained vixen with love in her heart!”
What’s Up Doc? (1972)
Review: Two researchers have come to San Francisco to compete for a grant in Music. Howard Bannister seems a bit distracted, and that was before he meets her, Judy Maxwell. A total stranger Judy seems to have devoted her life to confusing and embarrassing the stoic Howard. At the same time another woman has her jewels stolen and a government whistle blower arrives with his stolen top secret papers. All, of course have the same style and color overnight bag. High jinks ensue.
Bogdanovich made this film as a homage to the screwball comedies of the 1920’s and 1930’s, specifically Bringing up Baby. The screenplay is full of visual humor and one liners. Ryan O’Neal plays the straight man to Barbra Streisand’s crazy lady and it works. There is one truly impressive sequence spoofing the car chase from Bullitt. This involves pane of glass being moved across the street in San Francisco while a car chase occurs on the other end of the street. It is an excellent example of humor, timing, backdrop, and action. I would say that the humor stands up today. The only thing that really dates the movie is the atrocious 70’s fashion. The film’s title comes from Bugs Bunny famous “What’s Up, Doc?” catch-phrase.
“A screwball comedy. Remember them?”
Auntie Mame (1958)
Review: Mame is an unconventional individualist socialite from the roaring 1920’s. When her staid brother dies, she discovers that she is the guardian of her nephew, Patrick. However, Patrick’s father designated an executor to his will to protect the boy from Mame’s unconventional approach to life. Patrick and Mame become devoted to each other in spite of this restriction, and together journey through Patrick’s childhood and the great depression.
This movie is about growing up, both for Mame and Patrick. A devoted bachelorette, Mame lives a freewheeling life full of glamorous parties and bathtub gin. Patrick comes from a staid and proper household. He discovers a whole new approach to living when he goes to live with Mame. Together they figure out what it means to live a fulfilling life. Russell really shines in this role, she starred in the Broadway production from October 1956 to June 1958. While the graphics and film editing definitely date the movie, the humor stands the test of time.
“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
You Can’t Take It with You (1938)
Review: The movie is exceedingly funnier than the play. Pretty stenographer Alice Sycamore is in love with her boss Tony Kirby, who is the vice-president of the powerful company owned by his father Anthony P. Kirby. Kirby Sr. is running a monopoly in the weapons industry and needs to buy one last house in a twelve block area. This house is owned by Alice’s grandfather Martin Vanderhof. However, Martin does not care for money prioritizes fun and friendship. This makes Kirby Sr incredibly antagonistic since Martin will not sell. When Tony proposes to Alice, there is an inevitable clash of classes and lifestyles.
This is a comedy of manners and misunderstanding. I watched it numerous times as a kid, I had a rather large crush on Jimmy Stewart at the time. Whereas the play only features 19 characters, the movie has 153. It was the first of only two Best Picture Academy Award winners to have been adapted for the screen from a Pulitzer Prize winning play. The movie works due to the earnest honesty portrayed by Stewart and the contrast with the eccentric sophistication of Arthur’s Sycamore. It has everything you would want from a comedy: witty dialogue, strong characters, wacky relatives, a ballerina, explosions, misunderstandings, and numerous twists and turns.
“You’ll love them all for giving you the swellest time you’ve ever had!”
Musings on Books and movies
Musings on Books and movies