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Tom Lee is a sensitive boy of 17 whose lack of interest in the "manly" pursuits of sports, mountain climbing and girls labels him "sister-boy" at the college he is attending. Head master Bill Reynold's wife Laura sees Tom's suffering at the hands of his school mates (and her husband), and tries to help him find himself. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The movie begins and ends with an old French folk song "plaisir d'amour" (English translation :"joys of love")which was reworked as "can't help falling in love" for Elvis Presley.Since the movie is actually a long flashback,the infinite nostalgia this old chestnut generates fits the movie like a glove.
"Tea and sympathy" might be the best of all Minnelli non-musicals in the fifties/sixties.We even forget that John Kerr (25 at the time) was much too old for this part of an adolescent in search of his sexual identity.John Kerr was the victim of "the cobweb" a couple of years before.His character in "tea and sympathy'" is a relative of the one I mention above as well as of the young hero of "home from the hill" (1960) "Tea and sympathy " was a courageous move for the fifties:it took a lot a nerve to show a boy at the university who refused "normality".What's normality anyway?Is it ,for a man ,swearing or climbing mountains? as luminous Deborah Kerr says.When you're not fond of sports,when you like the ladies' tea and sympathy,when you enjoy music and poetry ,then you are a "sister boy" and maybe even worse...You've got to pay attention to see what heavy things Minnelli was saying at a time it was not that much good to be DIFFERENT.Robert Anderson's play was years ahead and had (or should have had) a deep beneficial influence on mentalities.The scene where one of the "true" boys teaches his unfortunate pal the right way to walk had certainly a strong influence on French director Claude Miller 's "la meilleure façon de marcher"(1975).
But the play (and Minnelli's excellent movie) are often a ruthless portrayal of the "straights" :the young hero's father is a really dumb man -where is his wife by the way? Is she dead? or the perfect housewife?-,a narrow-minded crude character devoid of all the qualities of the heart.The fact that he asks the virile teacher to "make a man of his son" proves his stupidity.This teacher (D.Kerr's husband) ,under a he-man mask actually hides a vulnerability which his sensitive wife feels.He,too , is longing for tenderness,love and affection,but as it's not worthy of a true man,his life will be an unfulfilled one.
Deborah Kerr RULES.She wins over the audience with a mesmerizing performance .It's not only the "sister boy" who falls in love with her.Anyone who sees this wonderful film will too.
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