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The morning of a small town Labor Day picnic, a drifter (Hal Carter) blows into town to visit an old fraternity buddy (Alan Benson) who also happens to be the son of the richest man in town. Hal is an egocentric braggart - all potential and no accomplishment. He meets up with Madge Owens, the town beauty queen and girlfriend of Alan Benson. Written by
Erik L. Ellis <email@example.com>
Despite its legend, this was NOT the first movie to feature a helicopter shot. They Live by Night (1948) was an early, if not the very first, film to use it (albeit in its opening shot, not the closing shot as was done in Picnic). See more »
The Neewollah president takes his hand off Alan's shoulder twice as he claims the first dance with Madge. See more »
It pains me to see people miss Picnic's message; as people hastily label it as 'outdated' or flawed in any way, they neglect the fact that what Inge, Logan, and the cast have offered us is indeed universal. Set on Labor Day weekend in Middle America, this is a film about the bittersweet irony of living in a world governed by rules and time. The characters in Picnic is confronted by a demon that, if not dealt with appropriately, serves to consume them and ensure that they become the thing they most fear. In a desperate search to find love, Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) alienates people to the extent that she seems increasingly destined to be alone. Admired throughout the town for her beauty, Madge (Kim Novak), in her unwillingness or inability to assert herself, is trapped inside her pretty face and finds she cannot build a character to support it. Her younger sister Millie (Susan Strasberg) is devoted to intellectual pursuit but finds her intellectual superiority complex serves to limit her peer group and rob her of her childhood. She is seen throughout the film sneaking cigarettes, and at one point steals a swig of whiskey, all in a rather revealing display of her conflict with regards to her place in the transition from youth to adulthood. Mrs Owens (Betty Field), having been left by her husband presumably for a younger woman, attempts to force Madge into an early marriage to a rich man so that she will not face the same anguish, but her dominating insistence on Madge's beauty as her chief asset is what eventually drives her away with little regret. This truly is the story of the varying ways people create and deal with solitude. Each character undergoes the struggle we all must to find a person beneath the masks we hide behind. It is a study of the irony of the evanescence of happiness - at this Labor Day picnic that is the great joyful gathering of the entire town, each of our main characters seeks their own escape. The emotional rawness of the end of Summer is exposed and serves as the perfect time for seasonal as well as personal transition. They are all, in effect, living parts of a sunset, as described by Russell in perhaps the most significant examination of time in the film. Holden's character is unique in that it is a true testament to the everyman and the power of chance. His arrival in this town is in fact the catalyst for reflection and action, and he shakes things up without having any inherent wisdom or inspiration (he is actually something of a moron, thus his ability to make things happen is so much more intriguing). That this is a passionate and beautifully acted (the occasional vacancy and slowness only a reinforcement of the emotional stagnancy Logan intends to have us defeat) love story with a heart-wrenchingly beautiful theme song is only icing on the cake.
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