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Journalist Steve O'Malley wants to write a biography of a national hero who died when his car ran off a bridge. Steve receives conflicting reports and tales that make him question what the truth about the hero is.
When a woman attempts to kill her uncaring husband, prosecutor Adam Bonner gets the case. Unfortunately for him his wife Amanda (who happens to be a lawyer too) decides to defend the woman in court. Amanda uses everything she can to win the case and Adam gets mad about it. As a result, their perfect marriage is disturbed by everyday quarrels... Written by
Chris Makrozahopoulos <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ADAM'S RIB is probably the most well-known of the nine Tracy/Hepburn films (with, perhaps, the exception of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner). It stars Spencer Tracy as Adam Bonner, and Katharine Hepburn as his alliteratively-named wife, Amanda. When they wind up as opposing counsel on the same Attinger v Attinger case (Adam prosecuting, Amanda defending), sparks of all sorts--romantic, angry, sexual--fly through the courtroom and their home.
Given the extremely flawed feminism of WOMAN OF THE YEAR (Tracy and Hepburn's first film together), I was worried that ADAM'S RIB would be more of the same--understandable, given that it is written by Garson Kanin, the mastermind behind the first film. The message of the film is certainly muted by the shenanigans Amanda gets up to in the courtroom--deliberately flustering Adam by giving her client a hat he had given her, for example; or flirting with him under the table (a naughty, electric scene); or even worse, having Adam literally shown up by a circus woman. It does occasionally make you wonder why Amanda has to resort to such silly tactics to make such a serious point about equal rights for women. But this really is just a minor offense--I present the entire series of 'Ally McBeal' as proof that, if ADAM'S RIB *did* present female lawyers as silly and flighty, it is hardly the only offender, and the fact that it was made in 1949 might excuse it. 'Ally McBeal' doesn't have that same excuse.
In fact, I *don't* think that ADAM'S RIB is as schizophrenic about affirming the female and equal rights as WOMAN OF THE YEAR is. Yes, Amanda does some silly things in court--this is a flaw in the film, albeit (I feel) a minor one. But, discounting that, Amanda is by all accounts a character the audience can (and do) sympathise with. Moreover, she is affirmed at the end in a way the Tess Harding character never is. I find it very interesting that, at the end, it is *Adam* who schemes to win Amanda back. (Contrast this with WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Tess has to win Sam back, and to do so, must be 'domesticated'.) The film actually makes the point that both Adam and Amanda are partly right--her cause is just as pertinent as his, and they both eventually come to respect what the other is fighting for. That's what gives them a true marriage, a true union based on sharing and trust, give and take. (Again, by contrast, this came under serious fire in WOMAN OF THE YEAR.)
In the end, ADAM'S RIB really is a wonderful film: it's not without its flaws, of course, but what it comes down to is a truly delightful little romantic comedy, with sparkling performances from its leads. It's a true delight to see Tracy and Hepburn playing a happily married couple who evidently love each other deeply. They really do play together perfectly--always in sync, and so believable as people who are going to spend the rest of their lives with each other. For them, it's the little moments that make all the difference; one of my favourites is when Adam and Amanda are screening a home movie for their party guests. Worried that Adam is mad at her (as he has every reason to be!), Amanda moves quickly across the dark room to him, and gently rests her head on his lap, before returning to her seat. Such a sweet, romantic little gesture, and yet it says volumes about their relationship.
Moreover, the film has plenty of little surprises (I was actually really pleased, and surprised, at the verdict given by the jury); a lovely supporting cast (including Jean Hagen and Judy Holliday, the latter's role being--effectively--a screen test for her later Hollywood career); and incredible dialogue fired off at an incredible pace. Plus, a sweet song by Cole Porter (albeit a very irritating, and crassly forward/opportunistic singer in the character of Kip), and some of the naughtiest scenes in film history that never took place onscreen.
Well, well worth the watch. 9/10.
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