The loons are back again on Golden Pond and so are Norman Thayer, a retired professor, and Ethel who have had a summer cottage there since early in their marriage. This summer their ... See full summary »
After a period of vacation in Hawaii, Joanna "Joey" Drayton returns to her parents' home in San Francisco bringing her fiancé, the high-qualified Dr. John Prentice, to introduce him to her mother Christina Drayton that owns an art gallery and her father Matt Drayton that is the publisher editor of the newspaper The Guardian. Joey was raised with a liberal education and intends to get married with Dr. John Prentice that is a black widower and needs to fly on that night to Geneva to work with the World Health Organization. Joey invites John's parents Mr. Prentice and Mrs. Prentice to have dinner with her family and the couple flies from Los Angeles to San Francisco without knowing that Joey is white. Christina invites also the liberal Monsignor Ryan, who is friend of her family. Along the day and night, the families discuss the problems of their son and daughter. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hmmm. I'm torn about this movie but I guess overall I find it too out of balance to work as other than as an historical piece.
The things I like about it? The sound-stage version of an outrageous San Francisco home. (A bridge to bridge view from the patio, which is not to be confused with the separate garden. Filled with expensive art. If such a place existed what would it cost today? $10 million? $15 million - but when the parents go out for ice cream they drive what would be a sort of old looking small to mid-sized car. Ah, Hollywood!) Seeing Isobel Sanford in something that doesn't involve Sherman Helmsley. Katharine Hepburn going through four slightly-oddball costumes over about 9 hours of movie time. (And what is with her and her choice of hats?!?) The bizarro, off-kilter scene with the dancing delivery boy.
The things I don't like? Well first and foremost the fact that this movie is set up so as to eliminate any sense of the REAL complexities of life. Poitier's character is not just a great guy, he is a physician. Wait, no ... not just a physician but one who has been on the faculty of some of the best medical schools...AND who has devoted his career to public health AND who is internationally well-known. Gosh, you think, is there ANY white man that Joanna might ever meet who could be as well-credentialled as him? And Joanna, we are told, has always been HAPPY!!! as a baby, as a child, as a teen, in college. Why, she's just the most perfect thing. Her parents? Unabashed liberals. Generous and kind to the help (even giving a $5000 bonus to an employee being fired.) His parents? Sober and hard-working. Sacrificing for their son. Kind and loving.
Wouldn't it be nice to see at least one of the parents being SOMEWHAT unpleasant?
Kramer just sets things up in a way where there is no real tension in the movie. We know Tracy and Hepburn's characters are too good to turn into bigots and that they are such great parents that their daughter's happiness is all that will matter. They may be friends with a Catholic monseigneur (though a point is made to say at least twice that they aren't Roman Catholics, what's that about?) but he is the most liberal happy-go-lucky priest that existed in the 1960's and raises not a single objection to interracial marriage (uncharacteristic of the Irish priests I knew of from the 60s --- but maybe it's because he's so busy drinking Scotch -- if you'll excuse THAT offensive Irish stereotype in a movie about prejudice.)
The look and feel of the movie is a little odd, because of the juxtaposition of real locations (SFO, the ice cream store) with the very "faux" stage set style used in scenes like the driveway in front of the house. For a movie that is supposed to be exploring the gritty reality of racism in America, seeing someone drive a phony delivery truck past the fake plants outside the fake house seems particularly jarring and inappropriate.
And of course, everyone is rich or well-to-do. Even the retired postal worker and his wife can afford to fly up to SF on a last minute airfare (which were even less cheap back in the 1960s than they are today) and, we are assured, can afford to fly to Geneva for the wedding? So ultimately their "problems" about love and marriage seem less important, because we don't really worry that John or Joanna's lives will be seriously crippled if they don't marry --- they are both so VERY charming, successful, self-directed and fulfilled that we know that they would find someone else if it came to that.
(For that matter, no one seems too bothered by the more substantial problem, which is that people who fall in love "in 20 minutes" and plan to marry only weeks after meeting, are quite likely to find themselves unhappily stuck with a person they knew nothing about -- regardless of their color.)
And poor Sydney Poitier, who I think was probably a good actor but seemed to have to sacrifice his talent on the cross of being the first great cross-over black movie actor --- always playing someone who is whiter than the white folks around him, usually better spoken, always smarter, always having to deliver the over-written, didactic speech about how times are changing for the black man, and never allowed to use a contraction in a sentence, lest he sound too ethnic. I find his acting to be terribly mannered most of the time, but I think that is mostly because of the straight-jacket forced on him by the types of roles he played in the 1960s.
So the movie just feels very manufactured --- structured so that every point of view or objection will be raised but rationally batted aside and that -- less than 12 hours after they show up, the couple will head off to Switzerland with a family united behind them and the audience can all leave the theater feeling that love conquers all and dealing with racism is just a matter of having a good conversation over drinks.
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