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"Swing Shift," director Jonathan Demme's sensitive story about women who
went to war with a rivet gun, begins the night before the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor. Living in modest California bungalows, Kay Walsh (Goldie
Hawn) and her husband, Jack (Ed Harris) live a simple and enjoyable life.
Everything is suddenly changed with the Sunday afternoon announcement of the
devastating assault on the Pacific Fleet and the Army Air Corps bases in
Jack enlists immediately as do many of the couple's neighbors and friends. Alone, bored and motivated by genuine patriotism Kay goes to work at an aircraft plant that builds the tough, reliable SBD carrier-borne dive bomber. She strikes up, awkwardly at first, a friendship with neighbor Hazel (Christine Lahti), a woman with a nightclub-owning boyfriend. Jack had made some nasty not sotto voce cracks about her before he left for war.
Kay takes to the assembly line and enjoys being productive. But she's also lonely - it was a long war. Her "leadman," a sort of foreman, is "Lucky" (Kurt Russell). He and she begin a friendship that culminates in one of those wartime affairs that happened very often and is realistically portrayed by Hawn who is torn between marital fidelity and loneliness (and, obviously, dealing with separation-enforced abstinence).
Lucky is a 4-F. That meant he was "physically, mentally or morally unfit" for military service. In his case - phew - it's a latent heart condition.
The affair goes through various stages, punctuated by Jack's surprise arrival on a forty-eight hour pass. Whatever suspecting his wife is having it on with Lucky may do to him, he's also both bemused and confused that as a "leadman," (she's been promoted) she earns more in a factory than he does serving in the Fleet. Harris's portrayal is of a man on the cusp of a social change he feels but can't really identify.
There are a lot of ups and downs in this story but Hawn and Lahti in particular deliver strongly emotional and convincing performances. This was long before women could rise to general officer or flag officer rank and assume major wartime responsibilities. Hawn is Rosie the Riveter, the patriotic but largely uneducated and unskilled patriotic American female. There were tens of thousands of such women employed in every type of industrial work.
Obviously the absence of husbands and the surfeit of available albeit older or not totally fit men aided the initiation of extramarital affairs. But "Swing Shift" also subtly conveys the reality that the women who went to work were empowered by the global conflict. Despite an ending that affirms the women's promise and duty to relinquish employment to returning veterans (the promise was unnecessary since both law and custom insured their rapid dismissal), American women were fundamentally changed by the liberating reality of serving their country by working (often for the first time) and earning money. The political, economic and social reverberations would be felt for decades. "Swing Shift" is fine entertainment but it's also a chronicle of an important aspect of America's Home Front.
A fine movie. Available on DVD in a good transfer with no real special features.
A quiet first-rate film that has Goldie Hawn at a factory to produce military goods during World War II while husband Ed Harris is off fighting the war. Hawn would have never thought that she would fall for co-worker Kurt Russell in this fine motion picture. Christine Lahti (Oscar-nominated) shines as another co-worker who has a bad reputation and Fred Ward gives another fine performance in a small supporting role. Directed by Jonathan Demme, "Swing Shift" is one of those diamonds in the rough from the 1980s. A good film. 4 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The actors all shine in this one. I especially commend Goldie Hawn for not
trying to act too cute (which I feel she has sometimes done), for
underplaying the role. Lahti is wonderful - as always - in whatever she does
- I loved her in Chicago Hope, in Housekeeping and in many other things.
Ed Harris and Kurt Russell are both so fine. In such small things, they show the difference in personality between these two men. As guilty as the former feels by not serving in the war, he seems more at home in the world, more confident, more fluidly at ease - Harris's character seems throughout more rigid, more defensive (think of his comments early in the movie about Lahti's character as she walks by - these wouldn't have been made by Russell's character). Harris draws more sympathy because of his situation and his simple goodness.
Twenty-five years on, you sense how these characters would respond to current events - Harris with irritation about "what's wrong with these kids today" and Russell with buoyant curiosity.
The movie didn't hit us too much over the head about what a bubbling feminism that didn't really raise its voice but was there as a result of wartime tasks that took women out of the homes. Several times, we do see men irritated that a woman (wife or girlfriend) now earned more or had achieved the same position. That sounds very realistic. I do think they could have shown one of the minor women characters pleased to STOP work and return to home - as I'm sure there were many of those too.
The screenwriter decided to keep the movie light - he could well have made much more of the depth of the romantic feelings between Russell and Hawn - more moving, more powerful - and the anguish of Harris' return more emotional. I think the movie would have worked better had we seen Hawn more torn during the movie - given the talent involved here, the movie would probably have been an Oscar contender as a wrenching romantic drama. However, it is wonderful as it is too.
**** SPOILERS ***
I do appreciate the feelings of the American in Saudi Arabia (on active duty?) that Hawn's character is not condemned enough - this is every soldier's and sailor's nightmare.
Actually I do think we see Hawn's guilt - but we don't see Russell's conscience at work at ALL - for a man who asked a wife each week for 6 months to go out with him - clearly intending that he seduce her. It's a black mark on Russell's character's morality - and the movie should have done more to show either: concurrent awareness of the wrong, subsequent contrition, or else make more clear that his is a loose and immoral character. Instead, it asks for our sympathy for his ousting - it's a credit to Kurt Russell that one does like this character very much - but one certainly feels he should be ousted and was quite wrong. I'm sure at least 2/3 of the audience wants Hawn to return to her husband and 90% feel that she and Russell did very wrong. **** END SPOILERS ***
The intentions of screenwriter and director seem fully realized - and make for a wonderful movie. Christine Lahti should be in more - MUCH more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When you have 24-hour jobs in any industry, the 3 shifts are commonly
called Day shift, Swing shift, and Graveyard shift. This movie deals
mainly with the relationships of a cast of characters working the swing
shift in a military airplane manufacturing plant on the west coast
during World War Two. Since most of the able bodied men went off to
war, the ladies were given the construction jobs.
The movie has another item of interest, it was made about the time that Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn began their long relationship which persists today, about 23 years later.
Goldie Hawn is Kay Walsh, young housewife whose husband Jack (Ed Harris) goes into the Navy. With no skills at all, she begins working in the factory. She learns fast and does well, and after the bravely pushed a co-worker out of harm's way when an overhead engine was falling, she was promoted to 'leadman.'
Kurt Russell is 'Lucky' Lockhart, a trumpet player who is 4F but also working the swing shift. Even though Lucky knows Kay is married, he persists in a romantic pursuit.
Another swing shift member is played by Christine Lahti as Hazel, part time club singer. She, Lucky, and Kay work together and become fast friends. Her love interest also goes off to war, Fred Ward playing 'Biscuits' Touie. A young Holly Hunter is Jeannie , another member of the work crew.
SPOILERS. Lonesome, Kay eventually gives in to Lucky's pursuit, and they develop a not so secret relationship. Husband Jack returns unannounced, is greeted by Kay, Lucky, and Hazel, and it is clear to Jack what was going on. Disappointed in Kay, he leaves again. Finally in 1945, when the war ended, Jack came back after Jack and Kay had called it quits. She apologized for her infidelity, they began to work things out. Probably realistic of how things were back then.
WWII star-vehicle for Goldie Hawn, here cast as a Rosie the Riveter-type who goes to work in an airplane-parts factory after her husband reports for duty. Poor beginning and hastily-filmed conclusion redeemed somewhat by bright moments in the middle. Hawn seems to realize she's being upstaged by Christine Lahti (as a "tramp" who lives in the same housing complex) and the final moments flip-flop trying to restructure the film's focus in Goldie's favor (check out that final shot). There's nothing wrong with that--Goldie's a wonderful presence and she's very appealing in parts of the movie--but her character as written just isn't all that interesting. As the men vying for Hawn's affections, Kurt Russell and Ed Harris are handsome and serviceable. As for Lahti, she indeed shines, obviously relishing the chance to play against type. I just wish the interaction between Lahti and Hawn had been explored with more depth, but it isn't. This is the fault of the screenwriter (the non-existent "Rob Morton", who is really Bo Goldman, Ron Nyswaner, and Nancy Dowd, here doing a WWII variation on "Coming Home", which Dowd also had a hand in) and also Goldie Hawn, who reportedly fought with director Jonathan Demme over control of the piece. They are all to blame for the slim box-office receipts "Swing Shift" struggled to bring in. **1/2 from ****
In this WW2-era drama, Goldie Hawn is the main character, and she tries to keep pace with the changes in her life as she goes from demure housewife from Iowa to lead lineperson in an aircraft factory by day and some-time escort of a jazz trumpeter (with a motorcycle/sidecar, no-less) by night. An interesting unfolding of the individual takes place amongst the trials of war-time life. When she finally, after many months, succumbs to the jazzman's charms, I was sympathetic toward her loneliness and formerly-repressed need for expression. During her tryst, it was always evident that she still loved her husband, played by Ed Harris, who was away in the navy. The fine acting jobs by Hawn, Harris, Russel and Christine Lahti are not exactly wasted in Swing Shift, but I would have liked to have seen more of the inner persons exposed, especially in regards to their thoughts and questions about why the Japanese attacked. The movie is good, but the individuals portrayed in the movie accept the war and their roles in it somewhat robotically, in that there is very little dialogue regarding the U.S. military's presence in Hawaii and other foreign countries. I feel this kind of dialogue would have helped develop the characters more. A fine move, well-directed and well-produced. Some powerful acting by Hawn, who manages to seem scared, but dauntless at the same time. Not an easy thing to do.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Calling "Swing Shift" a Jonathan Demme film is like calling "Cape Fear" a Martin Scorsese picture. Sure, they directed these movies but were their hearts behind it? In the case of "Swing Shift", there's hardly any heart at all... at least not one that beats. The story centers on a housewife who's husband (played by Ed Harris) goes to war in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. As he's out fighting the Nazis (and/or Japanese), Goldie is called upon, along with many other women, to aid in the war effort by working in a war plane factory. Christine Lahti plays her outgoing and somewhat lusty best friend, a failed nightclub singer who's got the hots for Fred Ward, the nightclub's owner. And Kurt Russell plays one of the most despicable characters in film history... at least to me. A trumpet playing player named "Lucky" who doesn't have to fight the war because of a heart condition... which doesn't seem to exist as he can play trumpet all night, smoke, and have a great old time lusting after our married main character who's husband is risking his necks to literally save the world. A character who doesn't fight in Vietnam is one thing; but World War 2, a war in which "we knew who we were fighting", is something else altogether. According to Demme, the movie was chop suey in the editing room, making it more of a standard romantic comedy than a character-study of women working in factories. At the very end the women are at a party looking back on how hard it was, all the trouble they went through, and how they overcame and became good workers, but since the film centered more on the Hawn/Russell romance, the viewer feels as if they'd missed something... or, a lot of things. And the opening/closing credit song sung by Carly Simon is very out of place in a film set in the forties. It is a somewhat entertaining time-waster, I'll give it that. But it could have been much, much better, and the fact it does entertain at a certain level makes it more frustrating; adding insult to injury and leaving one limp by the closing credits.
I really did like this movie. There's a lot to like. It's the beginning of
World War II, and all the men are being called to the Army. Goldie Hawn and
Ed Harris are a typical American couple thus pulled apart. Goldie gets a
Rosie the Riveter job, where she meets Kurt Russel, a 4F plant foreman, and
the rest is history.
Swing Shift was directed by Jonathan Demme, of Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia fame, and if this one is a little lighter, it was also a lot earlier in his career. Holly Hunter appears in a very small supporting role, but gives it her star-quality best. Christine Lahti is magnificent as the single neighbor who befriends Goldie at the factory even though she and her husband were cruel to her before the war changed everyone's lives. Fred Ward was already becoming old hat, but he, like the rest of the film, ends up being likeable and thoroughly enjoyable.
Hawn and Russell met on the set and have been together ever since. Maybe the excitement of their real-life romance drained the spark from their on-screen version. This could have been a really moving story of a woman who falls in love while her husband is off to war, but ends up showing us a couple of bump-buddies killing time till their real lives resume. Perhaps that was the point.
Ed Harris is perfectly cast as the common man trying to keep his marriage together in the face of all that life throws in its way. There is a famous scene, in which Ed, wearing nothing but a bath towel, plops into a floppy chair with a cold beer. The resulting bounce proves that Harris is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and explains why this charming little tale will never be on DVD.
Swing Shift is a nice period piece, and provides an amusing, if not entirely accurate, view of the tumultous years in the middle of the last century when the entire world went to war.
An easy-to-watch look at the Rosie the Riveter culture during WWII,
"Swing Shift" is nothing special but passes. Goldie Hawn is her usual
self as housewife Kay Walsh, who goes to work in the factories after
her husband Jack (Ed Harris) goes off to fight in the war. If anything
weakens the movie, it's something that we only recognize in the 21st
century: the fact that Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell met on the set
(Russell plays her new love interest). Since then, stories of movie
stars meeting on movie sets - and possible breaking up marriages - have
become so commonplace that it makes our eyes roll.
But the movie itself is pretty interesting. Maybe it's not any kind of masterpiece, but it's fun to watch. Also starring Christine Lahti, Fred Ward and Holly Hunter. Jonathan Demme was certainly demonstrating the talent that he would later bring to "Silence of the Lambs", "Philadelphia" and "Beloved".
December 7, 1941 ...........
That is what this film is about , World War II And it's affects it has on a family when a loved one goes away for a long period of time.
Goldie Hawn is superb as is Christine Lahti and Kurt Russell the three stars of the film , Well Acted by all ............
Also Look for a rather young Ed Harris as Goldie's Husband who goes off to war and Holly Hunter as Her Co-Worker in the Aviation Factory . Also a Great Score By Carly Simon singing the main title song .
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