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After waiter and would-be novelist Peter Stanislavsky marries Marcia, he learns to play bridge to satisfy his wife, despite feeling that it is a childish game. Her friends all play the game avidly, but argue often about the proper play. He's called one evening to serve as a waiter at a bridge party given by Lola Starr, but is asked to be a fourth for one of the bridge tables, where eminent bridge expert Cedric Van Dorn is seated. Peter trounces the expert, and when asked what method he uses to play, he jokingly says the "Stanislavsky method," which has no rules of bidding or play. It makes headlines; Speed McCann ghostwrites a best-selling book for him; a national tour is set up with Marcia as his partner; and his method sweeps the country. But slowly Peter begins to question Marcia's play, leading to arguments because it is a violation of the only rule in his system. And when he gives private lessons to Lola, Marcia leaves him thinking there is something between them. With his ... Written by
Arthur Hausner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Outrageous low score! For bridge fans AND lovers of satire!
The current score for grand slam is astounding for a little movie so well-directed, well-acted and so truly funny.
For those who know bridge and satire, there are some laugh-out-loud moments, particularly the vignettes of husbands and wives fighting across the tables. In fact, Stanislavsky's bridge "system" is all about keeping couples together by doing away with the rules entirely. Of course, this is a goof on the other Stanislavsky's "method" acting, which is not to act at all.
The scenes where the stuffed-shirt bridge establishment meets Stanislavsky are priceless. They just can't imagine how anybody, much less a common waiter, can make an opening bid of 7 spades, much less win. And there's the cleft between bridge players and pinochle players, who consider bridge players sissies.
A younger Paul Lukas is charming as Stanislavsky, a Russian emigré who is not an aristocrat, not a general, but rather "a genius". His wife, the key to his fame, is Loretta Young at her loveliest. They and a great supporting cast are handled, and the scenes expertly paced, by A-list director William Dieterle.
The crucial match is fought as if it were a heavyweight title fight, complete with breathless play-by-play, complete with climactic moment where the whole world stops -- literally! Of course, all of this is over-the-top, and all of it works, if you get the bridge craze that had swept America for the first half of the 20th century to ridiculous extremes.
In fact, it's still going on. Did you know that the 2008 financial meltdown and recession we're still feeling can arguably be put to bridge? One of the key players in the meltdown was investment bank Bear Stearns. There was a run on this bank, while its CEO was out of the loop...playing bridge.
Grand Slam is a good-natured dig at pop fame and enthusiasms. As Stanislavsky said to the microphone as he was being carried of the field of play, "Hello, Ma!"
In fact, the more I think of how delightful this comedy of manners is, the more frustrated I am by the score. This movie deserves at least a 7. I give it an 8.
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